How Challenger built a smart employment brand

Challenger's executive general manager of human resources, Angela Murphy, says there are links between engagement internally and trust from advisers externally

A strong focus on developing and delivering an employment brand promise has met with significant commercial success within diversified financial services company Challenger, according to its executive general manager of human resources, Angela Murphy.

In 2013, Challenger undertook an engagement survey through Aon Hewitt, and found that there was a strong correlation between high engagement scores and brand promise (the extent to which employees felt that the organisation delivered on the promises it made to employees).

Murphy could also see links between high engagement internally and high levels of trust and understanding from advisers externally who work with Challenger on an everyday basis.

However, feedback indicated that there was a need to improve awareness of the business and its products among advisers and consumers, and Murphy indicated to the leadership team that there was a need to clearly develop and articulate the employment brand internally, with a view to improving the brand promise to advisers and consumers.

Turnover for employees within the first one to two years of service was higher than for other tenure groups across the business.

An external research firm conducted focus groups with employees across all levels of the business to better understand what they valued in working at Challenger and what differentiated it from competing organisations.

Murphy says this research confirmed that employees valued certain traits in the business and its culture and formed the basis of the development of Challenger’s employment brand, which was founded on four key concepts: collaboration (a drive to succeed, while valuing and respecting each other), growth (providing individual development through broad and deep roles and exposure to leaders), challenge (valuing intellectual inquisitiveness, rigorous analysis and the delivery of results) and achievement (a bold vision which welcomes individual creativity and initiative to achieve it).

“What was really unique about our culture was that though it was very competitive there was a real sense of collaboration and valuing each other”

This also helped differentiate Challenger’s brand from other potential financial services competitors, according to Murphy.

“Many financial services companies are much bigger than we are, so there’s a bit of a sense of David and Goliath within Challenger,” she said.

“There is also a competitive nature to our workplace, and the external researcher said it feels a bit like an investment bank here in that sense.

“But they said investment banks are highly competitive internally and it can be a bit ‘dog eat dog’, and what was really unique about our culture was that though it was very competitive there was a real sense of collaboration and valuing each other.”

Challenger’s employment brand was formally launched in February 2014.

To help communicate this, Murphy updated its recruitment toolkit and recruiting managers were also updated on briefing agencies and/or candidates on Challenger’s work environment and brand promise.

There have been a number of positive impacts as a result, and for employees within the first year of service voluntary turnover decreased by 4.2 percentage points from January 2014 to January 2015, while voluntary turnover of employees with one to two years of service decreased by 3.2 percentage points over the same period.

More broadly, its rolling 12-month voluntary turnover ratio decreased by 6.5 per cent in FY14 and at 30 June 2014 was more than 10 per cent below the industry benchmark published by the Financial Institutions Remuneration Group.

There was also a 10 point increase on the question in Challenger’s engagement survey around whether it delivers on the promises it makes to employees.

For the full interview with Murphy and story on how she helps Challenger grow its business, see the current issue of Inside HR magazine. Image source: Scott Ehler