EY wins big at the 2017 Grad Ireland Awards

Caroline McAniff

2016 the year EY embraced change

As we sat at our table in the Mansions house on Dawson Street last Thursday night my colleague informed me he could taste the anxiety around me! I wasn’t hiding too well how nervous I was about the results of the Grad Ireland 2017 awards. Here, in the Round Room were a collection of the brightest and best in the Graduate recruitment space. Between the wonderful careers services who guide students through their college years to all of the amazing organisations that compete each year to attract the talent. Validation, in the shape of a grad Ireland award, for the hard work we had done to improve our graduate offering, would be an amazing achievement. 

I cast my mind back one year to the 2016 awards. I was only eight months in EY but already there were huge changes underway. We left the awards that night empty handed however and totally deflated. We hadn’t placed in any category although we had jumped 15 places on the leader board to number 17. I knew we had a huge amount of work ahead of us but I had an amazing resilient team who were up for the challenge. The other leverage we had was the support of the business. Dermot Daly, a Partner in our Assurance practice, became our graduate sponsor and key influencer in helping us get things done. 

From my first interactions with EY I knew we weren’t telling our real story. Potential candidates have perceptions of Big 4 and what working there might look like. Stuffy offices with closed doors and an older population who are resistant to change. This could not have been further from our truth with 50% of our employees under the age of 30, open plan offices and continuous discussion of change, innovation and disruption.  We had to tell our story better and needed two things to achieve this. Firstly a brand new Careers Site, without a corporate influence which would act as a window into EY. There would be a section for blogs to allow potential candidate an opportunity to see what life in EY is really like and all content would be fresh and engaging. My colleague, Luke Maycock, built the site after work each day and I can safely say he would give any web developer a run for their money. Secondly, we needed a brand new marketing campaign that would really grab the attention of our target audience.

To understand what the EY brand perception was like in the grad market we engaged a team from the CEMS class in Smurfit to gather quantitative research. Next we worked with Atomic DNA who conducted qualitative research with our current graduate population and found out exactly what students enjoy about working at EY and why they chose to work here. With the combined research we were able to define our value proposition and the EY ‘Is This You’ campaign was born. With Graduate 2 Graduate leading the way, 9 of our graduates became the face of the campaign with 9 key stories that would resonate with potential candidates. 

We chose video as our medium to tell short snappy stories which we shared over Facebook and Instagram. We created 18 in total and put text on some to ensure they were effective for those with difficulty hearing. By the end of the campaign over 250,000 people had viewed our videos ensuring a considerable increase in the EY brand awareness. 

With our website and campaign in place we started to look at our processes. Our application form was taking people up to 3 hours to complete. With the candidate experience at the heart of everything we did this had to be changed. By removing questions we didn’t really need to ask we were able to reduce it to 15 minutes which resulted in a 234% increase in completed applications!    

When it came to our internship programme it needed a total overhaul. Again thinking of our audience we got our previous interns to brainstorm how the programme could be even better than it already was. By setting a clear pathway of learning over the 12 weeks with lots of training and social activity as well as client engagement we were able to ensure a great experience for all involved. When surveyed at the end 97% said they would recommend the internship to a friend.

In conjunction with all of these changes we had a massive challenge to penetrate campuses around the country to make sure everyone knew about EY opportunities. Our recruiters, along with large numbers of our current graduates set out to tell our story. The engagement and passion from all involved was captivating and future graduates got the opportunity to ask the questions they would never ask a potential boss. When it came to the Grad Ireland recruitment fair our stand reflected our campaign and we ensured the audience were able to view our videos and speak to potential fellow colleagues. 

To further engage students we launched the EY Better Questions Business Challenge where students from around the country engaged with our business on a specific challenge. Finalists from each campus came to our Dublin headquarters and presented their ideas to Partners and Directors with the winners walking away with Electric Picnic tickets. Feedback was phenomenal and gave us a huge pipeline of talent for coming years.

So back to the Round Room and it seems like a really long time since we were feeling deflated in 2016. We put hours of work into really improving what we offer students and improving Brand awareness by providing a great insight into what life at EY is really like.  When the leader board was announced we saw we had moved from 17 to number 10!  Into the top 10! We were thrilled. When Brian Dobson took to the stage the anxiety rose a little bit further. 

First up the award for best Graduate Marketing campaign. The winning entry….

“Standout entry in terms of language, imagery, tone of voice and communication channels.  The focus on disruption & differentiation was exceptional.  KPI’s were clearly defined, reached and surpassed.”

'The winner – EY!!!' We were absolutely thrilled!! This was followed closely by 3rd place in Innovation on Campus for the EY Better Questions Business Challenge! 

We had just about composed ourselves when we were announced as winners of the Internship of the Year! The judges said;

“Great programmes with great outcomes for students. Excellent use of social media, e.g. vlogs, regramming… Vision Map excellent and innovative… strong stakeholder involvement, full marks!”

We were ecstatic and just about realised what was happening when we were announced as winners of Diversity! The judges said;

“Spans the whole diversity charter with real examples. Some great evidence of real activity at all levels. Clearly a top of the field organisation.”

The night could not get any better. The whole team were giddy with excitement and disbelief that we had achieved so much recognition for our work. Then the big one! Graduate Employer of the Year! 

“Compelling evidence of a strong commitment to understanding the target market and willingness to disrupt previous approaches to recruitment. Highlights include a 234% increase in completed applications, and proof that this employer is committed to providing a holistic approach to development.”

We all knew that figure of 234%! We all lifted off the floor, the achievement outstanding! Champagne was ordered, photos taken, the night was young. The team who had worked tirelessly and passionately for 12 solid months got what they deserved and it was so fantastic to see. As I think about sitting at the awards next year I’m excited to think about the challenge ahead. But for now I’m just going to enjoy the glory!