Case study: Attracting and retaining talent up North

How Sky Betting and Gaming attracts and develops top talent in Yorkshire

“The quality of life up here is great; you’ve got the countryside on your doorstep. It’s a stunning place to live and great for bringing up a family.” So says Rob Painter, brand and HR director at Leeds and Sheffield-based Sky Betting & Gaming. “You do have to potentially work harder to find talent when you’re not in London,” he concedes. But the company has learned many valuable lessons on how to do this over the years.

First off, it’s about doing your homework to find out where the skills actually are. The business moved from Harrogate to Leeds in 2010 and added a Sheffield office to “access a slightly different recruitment market”. “We did an exercise looking at the conurbations across the

UK where tech skills reside, and it showed Leeds and Sheffield was a winning combination,” Painter says.

“One of the biggest clusters of unis is in Yorkshire,” he says, pointing to the success of the firm’s grad scheme, now in its second year, and to the importance of taking on and developing raw regional talent. “The biggest success we’ve had in recruiting and attracting good talent has been utilising current staff through referrals,” he says. “Word of mouth works better in small towns and cities; your reputation can spread quicker.”

“We really changed the way we did recruitment a year ago and started treating it more as a marketing exercise,” adds Painter, pointing to the importance of his dual marketing and HR role, and explaining that non-London companies perhaps do need to work a bit harder here.

The experience once people arrive must be similarly attractive and cutting edge. “Culture is a big part of attracting people,” says Painter. “This is a tech and digital business whose ethos is collaboration. We’ve broken down the traditional boundaries and disciplines so we have marketeers and technologists and product people working cheek by jowl. Preserving that culture will retain top talent.”

Also crucial has been forging partnerships with similar businesses, and universities, around knowledge-sharing – creating the kinds of virtuous networking circles more readily accessible in London. “We’re a very open and transparent company and we have tech nights,” says Painter. “We invite technologists from elsewhere to come in and hear talks from our developers and engineers. That’s part of attracting people and building our reputation as a great employer.”

Further reading

UK productivity: Rebalancing the regions

Rebalancing the UK: Organisations' role

Fixing the London problem