Nayak Aircraft Services – the BiTSing method at work in the labour market
• Optimal staff recruitment
• Improving employee performance
Bitsers are sometimes surprised by the power of their own ideas. This happened to Patrick Morcus of Nayak Aircraft Services. The Bitsing method, which Nayak use to recruit new clients, became a powerful personnel recruitment tool which also improved the organisation’s performance. It delivered results which seemed impossible to achieve using traditional staff recruitment tools. Nayak recruited 124 new employees, in a labour market in which such staff were difficult, if not seemingly impossible, to find. ’Without Nayak – things don’t take off’.
This was the (literally translated) slogan on the presentation boards shown to me by Patrick Morcus, managing director of Nayak Aircraft Services. To which he added, ”Look, I’m not really keen on this. To be quite honest, I don’t know if this is what we are going to run with. Can you also recruit staff – using the same method?” My answer was, ”If you can recruit clients using Bitsing, why not employees? personnel recruitment is surely just selling your company to potential employees?” A smile dawned on Patrick’s face, “Well then, we’d better start doing that straight away!”
Nayak Aircraft Services is an aircraft maintenance company. Located at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, its clients number more than 60 airlines and it has maintenance stations at 27 airports,
across Europe. Nayak is like an emergency help automobile association – of the air. If an aircraft has a problem, Nayak solves it immediately, so that it can proceed safely to its destination. The company has been a fervent Bitsing user since the time of the method’s introduction. It has used Bitsing to achieve its commercial goals for years. It is also the first business to have created a specialised, dedicated department for this purpose. It has no marketing department, it has a Bitsing department, which supervises correct application of all aspects of the method.
Nayak is also extremely successful, which is a function of the extraordinary drive and passion that its people bring to their jobs. As a result, it holds an increasingly important position in the international aviation services market. At Schiphol it is responsible for providing technical services to one third of all aircraft taking off and landing at this huge airport. And this achievement has not remained unnoticed. One evening an SMS message arrived from Patrick, ‘Standing on stage at FD (the leading, Dutch financial newspaper) Gala event. Have won FD Gazelle Award for 500% growth over recent years and consistent personnel quality. Also due to your efforts. Thanks v. much!’
Nayak’s growth remained unstoppable. By the end of 2007 Nayak had closed major contracts with KLM Cityhopper, to maintain all its aircraft. The contract would commence on 1 April 2008, for a limited number of aircraft, and from 31 October 2008 for the entire fleet. To meet these contractual requirements the company had to recruit a total of 104 aviation technicians, and have 48 already operational by 1 April 2008!
Not an easy task – to put it mildly – as these people were as rare as hen’s teeth. They belonged to the category of personnel in shortest supply – worldwide.
Meantime 1 April was four months away and Nayak was contractually bound to ‘deliver’ on this date. Everything possible was done to recruit the required staff. Recruitment and temporary staff agencies were briefed, as well as a well-known labour market communication agency. Despite these measures, nothing worked. Patrick had run out of options. In any event until he had his breakthrough idea and asked me, “Can you also recruit staff using the Bitsing method?” It was an opportunity for the Bitsing method to demonstrate, for the first time in its existence, that it was also effective in therecruitment of high level, specialised personnel.
All seven steps of the Bitsing method were implemented, in precisely the same way as when applied to commercial objectives:
Step 1. Employee recruitment was expressed as a continuity turnover goal.
Step 2. Goal achievement was guaranteed by means of a focus on the hard (financial) facts.
Step 3. Nayak was rendered unbeatable – now backed with the additional benefits of uncopyability. Step 4. A plan was developed to take each potential employee through six steps of the Bitser ladder.
Step 5. This plan was implemented using programs formulated according to Bitser techniques.
Step 6. The programmes were rolled out against predicted results.
Step 7. Profit was guaranteed, with an investment plan in which less money was spent on the programs than they were expected to produce.
Results: The required 48 staff members were recruited well before the deadline of 1 April. On 15 July I received an email from Patrick: ‘Stop the presses! Number of employees exceeded!’ Within a period of eight months Nayak had filled all the required vacancies and had also accumulated a ‘reserve’ of another 20 employees. In total 124 employees had been found, instead of the targeted 104. Nayak had its ‘ducks in a row’ more than three months before the start of its massive KLM assignment. Recruitment interviews were carried out with a total of 517 candidates, from which 124 were employed: a conversion rate of 24%. The final recruitment costs were extraordinarily low: as little as one third of the previously set budget turned out to be enough to achieve the goal. And this budget had been based on the average, expected costs of traditional personnel recruitment. The recruitment campaign had mainly focused on Nayak’s uncopyable proposition as an employer in the personnel market.
By focusing on the hard financial facts, Nayak discovered that its target group consisted of a mix of different job positions, which were jointly responsible for the generation of turnover. Nayak did not only earn its money from deploying technicians, but also by having professionals in operational, supports and administrative functions. These people also had to be recruited, in order to secure the increased turnover. The number required to support the technical service requirements could be calculated per target group and Nayak knew exactly how many people where necessary per group. The campaign objective found commercial expression in a 45% focus on the creation of brand preference, 30% on stimulating purchasing behaviour ( i.e. the decision to enter employment) and 25% on ensuring that the new employees remained at Nayak (i.e. loyalty). As stated, only 30% of the program activities were focused on purchasing behaviour, in other words on the job itself – which therefore did not play a dominant role in the recruitment activities. Nayak used emotional propositions to profile the brand, rational propositions to get people to decide to take the job and relationship propositions to optimise employee performance.
Nayak had to claim an uncopyable proposition for its positioning, one which other brands could not claim because they simply lacked the credentials to do so. Nayak sought its uncopyability within the organisation – where the work took place. It emerged that Nayak had an internal culture which revolved around solid, collegial support between its people. This was translated into the proposition, ‘We never let you down’. Who would not want to work for a company whose people were always there for each other? The campaign execution communicated this ethos by using actual employees instead of professional models. The results prediction quantified how many people would have to be recruited per Bitser programme and per target group. Communication with the target groups was based on the well-known six types of Bitser programmes, each tailored to one of the six Bitser steps.
The program to increase brand awareness consisted of billboards in the Schiphol area, buses for broader regional reach, Nayak’s own fleet vehicles within the airport area and free publicity in aviation industry magazines. The image building program consisted of interviews in industry magazines, a ‘making of’ film (about the Nayak employees who were models in the campaigns) which was posted on YouTube, a specialised personnel market website (which communicated the Nayak philosophy) and an award event (the Dutch Aircraft Maintenance & Repair award, which spotlighted not only Nayak but the entire aviation technology industry). Recruitment interviews were stimulated via a promotional website (called ‘workingatNayak’) which also carried vacancy ads and a personality test to determine applicants’ psychological ‘fit’, a promotion on the Schiphol platform as well as in various airport car parks (this was the Nayak ‘Snack Car’, which offered technicians sodas, snacks and vacancy brochures), a photographic competition (prize: an Airbus 380 scale model) and online banners (on websites frequently visited by the target group, such as a Dutch aviation news site and various blogs).
Entry into employment- the employment contract phase – was supported by small group events, in personal interviews, with a presentation (about Nayak), and via case studies (by and about employees who had just started working at Nayak and who also shared their experiences on the ‘workingatNayak’ website). A satisfaction program served, as implied by its name, to ensure employee satisfaction. This was supported by, among other things, the Nayakclub.nl website (a community where employees could read all about Nayak and about their colleagues – new arrivals, new babies, staff birthdays and other life events and news).
There was an on-site suggestions box and initiatives like ‘A feather in your cap’ (‘award one to a colleague and explain why’), formula 1 and football pools, savings points (for interesting gadgets) and so on. Finally, current employees were encouraged to also identify potential new recruits. For this they were rewarded with Nayakclub.nl savings points – for a skid course, a flip in a helicopter, a casino evening with friends, etc.
Patrick Morcus: “We’ve used the Bitsing method for many years. I found it exceptional that it’s also helped us recruit extremely hard-to-get personnel and that it delivered such quality – nearly everyone is still working for us. A quick success is not so difficult to achieve, but when it involves new employees with such a high degree of loyalty, that’s a real achievement. Bitsing provided an extremely solid foundation. It ensured that our messages were correct, our tasks were very clear and the people we recruited are still with us. Indeed, the picture we presented of the company fitted the reality – Bitsing doesn’t make things look better than they actually are. Which is one of the reasons for our new employees’ continued loyalty.
I first saw the investment in the programs as short term and evaluated it accordingly. However, I have now concluded that the loyalty created by applying the Bitsing is still benefiting us 5 five years down the line. The benefits have turned out to be long-term. I hadn’t previously seen it this way and it’s given me a new perspective. So this isn’t only about achieving short term objectives, I also now look at my investment in Bitsing programs as, indeed, longer term investments. You do keep benefiting from the investment, as long as you use the method correctly. Our uncopyable theme, ‘We never let you down’ has turned out, for instance, to be timeless. We can’t drop it. It remains relevant. And this is the result of Bitsing, of going in search of our own identity, our DNA. And that, also, is something that doesn’t change.
”Everything we did was built according to the Bitser model: the programmes, the ‘workingatNayak’ website – absolutely everything! This includes the employee loyalty program which, after all these years, is still running and is still a success. It’s fantastic. I think it’s the most complete programme ever, from top to tail. Employees even involve themselves in it at home and over weekends. It’s really great. The programme offers employees a sort of savings point, which they can use to buy Nayak goodies. And there’s always a run on these items. Imagine! That’s really brand preference in its purest form. It’s really a unique achievement for a technical business that’s not really ‘sexy’!
“Bitsing also makes salespeople increasingly less important. They no longer have to sell, as the sale is already made. This is what that the programmes do for you. My salespeople are becoming order takers. Sales appointments no longer revolve around whether the order is placed or not. Customers simply order. This makes Bitsing more of a goal achievement model than a selling model. The method itself is a ‘manager’ – it brings oversight to the otherwise intangible process of managing, guiding and evaluating employees. It also makes internal operational processes transparent and controllable. ”What have I learnt from Bitsing, in practice? It comes down to translating your dreams into objectives and realising that you can use the model to achieve these goals, provided you stick to the method. You have to trust the model and not diverge from it too quickly. Businesses will always throw up issues that could make you want to change strategy. Experience has taught me that the viability of the model far outlasts the whims of the market.”