Havas Group India has announced the launch of its employer branding specialist unit Havas People in India.
The unit will be headed by Arindam Sengupta, chief growth officer, Havas Creative India. Sengupta takes on the role of managing director at Havas People.
Havas People will become part of Havas Creative Network India. It joins Havas Worldwide India (creative), Havas CX (customer experience), Think Design (UI/UX), Conran Design Group Mumbai (brand design), Shobiz Havas (experiential), and Havas QED (digital) in India.
The agency currently operates in the UK, USA (New York and Chicago) and Australia (Sydney).
We caught up with Rupert Grose, CEO, Havas People, and Sengupta to learn more about the offerings.
Can you tell us more about Havas People? Since when has it been operational?
Rupert Grose (RG): The business has been in operation since 1947 in different forms. It was founded as a classified advertising agency in the UK and was dealing with newspapers.
It’s been a part of the Havas family since 1999.
The main work it did till about 20 years ago was advertising jobs in newspapers (recruitment advertising). That was the business that I originally joined.
In the last 20 years, a lot has changed. The way people consume media has also changed. How people look for jobs has changed too and so has our business. We have evolved over that period. Clients had to reconsider how they are working with the growth of digital.
From an agency point-of-view, we had to reimagine what our service proposition was.
The whole world of work has changed. People are doing different kinds of work now. As we have these generational shifts, people are connecting with their employers differently.
Over the last 20 years, our journey has been about becoming a lot more relevant to the world of work. We want to be an agency that can help their clients tell their stories to candidates and make them more attractive on a holistic level. It’s not about just making a job attractive, but making a company attractive.
We are now an employer branding and employer marketing agency. We are present across the whole employee cycle. It starts with someone thinking that he/she might be interested in working somewhere. That’s the awareness time. We are then there along the stages which include engaging with the brand to visiting the brand's career page on the website, the application process, and then eventually joining the company. We then make sure that the working experience matches what was sold to the applicant. Through this, we are making sure that when the employee leaves the organisation, he/she says good things about it.
Do ex-employees ever say good things about a former company?
RG: I do feel to some extent that advocacy is becoming more powerful. Brands that do tell the truth about how it’s to work at a company, will have people leave on better terms.
So most of your clients would be projects, unlike the retainer clients other advertising agencies work with?
RG: It’s both. We are the agency on record for some of our clients globally and the work we’ll do with them will be multiple campaigns to attract people but also could be other projects in the people space around employer brands. It could be internal communications or helping to onboard or redesign a big change that’s happening.
Clients work with us because we understand their brand (since we’re working on it) and understand people and their motivations.
Often, we have project-based work like understanding employer value propositions and can anyone help with defining what the proposition is.
You spoke about the motivation of employees. Doesn’t hiring usually come down to the pay structure which usually is the biggest motivation?
RG: Havas as a group talks a lot about ‘meaningful brands’ and the various benefits of associations with such brands. The same applies to jobs as well. There are functional and emotional benefits. Job seekers do care about the basics around pay but also care about culture, the opportunities they might get and also whether the company is doing good things. The younger generation, specifically is looking at things outside of the pay.
How big is the India team at launch?
Arindam Sengupta (AS): I’ve got a nice tight unit of account managers, a business director, an entry-level person and a creative team dedicated to Havas People. We are talking to a lot of clients and once our talks convert to business, we’ll hire accordingly.
How big is this market globally and how important is employer branding? I don't think any of the other big six holding companies has a unit dedicated to employer branding?
RG: Employer branding itself isn’t really measured. But employer marketing is around a USD 2 billion industry. That includes the money spent on job boards and other platforms too. Some networks are doing this work but not as a specialised unit. One or two of them have expertise in telecom specifically.
Interestingly, some organisations globally put an awful lot of their budgets on this because they can see a real connection between an effective employer brand and the performance of their overall company.
Where do the budgets for employer branding come from – is it from the marketing side?
AS: Two years ago we did a campaign for an Indian company and the budget came from HR.
RG: It depends on how the client is structured. Some of them are looking at it from a corporate communications lens, some look at it from marketing, some from HR or a hybrid of all. The majority of the budgets come from HR.
Have any of your clients also laid off employees recently? If yes, would Havas People be involved then too? How has the agency tackled this?
Layoffs are happening in lots of different sectors. It doesn’t necessarily impact what we are doing. We don’t work on communication around that.
To answer your question, yes, some of our clients have laid off people recently. We wouldn’t get involved in corporate communication around that.
It’s a funny market right now and there seems to be a lot of change going on since Covid. The workspace has changed entirely. The layoffs in tech are because of the over-recruiting in the space during the pandemic.
What we are finding is that a lot of the companies we work with are not technology companies, but want talent from these organisations.
The problem our clients have is that tech people don’t want to work for non-tech clients. They don’t perceive an FMCG company as a cool place to work. Our job is to say that one can do some cool work at these kinds of companies.
Even after the layoffs are tech companies ‘cooler to work at’ compared to FMCG?
Yes, that has changed things a bit. It was a real struggle to find tech talent two years ago. Now, there’s more talent available, but in certain places, I still think that there’s not enough correct tech talent available for the needs.
There are real challenges around what companies are trying to do and what talent is available to do that work. Companies are going through some sort of business transformation which seems to be endless. There are some economic challenges around the world regarding employment, but what’s good for us is that creates opportunities to build new stories for companies.
In the past, if you had a recession, everyone just stopped hiring and it was a disaster for agencies like us. Now, while companies stop hiring, they know about the importance of retaining the people that they need. That’s where we step in.
What are the challenges in this space? Would building awareness about this be one major challenge?
RG: Yes, we would want to make people more aware of this. We have seen this in the UK and USA, and this accelerates very quickly once people start talking about it. If the C-suite get the importance of talent, they’ll be asking their marketing and HR team about it. It’s becoming more noticeable but I do accept there’s more awareness that has to be built around it, especially in the marketing and communications space because it’s not a discipline that’s well known.