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Finding that ‘golden thread’ when hiring in international ed

At CEG, as our teams adjusted to life in lockdown, it quickly became apparent that all in-centre and in-market activity was going to look radically different – from online teaching to student fairs, agent presentations, training, interviews and workshops all having to be moved to a digital environment.

It is important to ensure that all colleagues, current and future, embody the behaviours we hold in esteem. Photo: Unsplash

Candidates should expect to be asked about these things at interview

Creativity and communication were key to making the transition successful and our teams have responded brilliantly by utilising all of the digital innovation we have at our fingertips.

“At CEG, we had a secret weapon in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic”

At CEG, we had a secret weapon in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic; our CEG Digital division.

CEG Digital works closely with our partner universities to help create, market and deliver part-time online and blended University programmes to students around the world.

And, of course, we’ve leveraged this to enhance the offering of our ONCAMPUS division too, to ensure students more used to face-to-face delivery have the flexibility they need to continue their studies through the pandemic with online tutoring, interactions with other students and our support teams.

We’ve produced webinars, podcasts, dedicated webpages, quizzes, videos and digital bulletins to keep our international community together and engaged.

Being innovative, actually innovating, has meant that we’ve had to be more open and experimental in our practices and attitudes. And this, in turn, has facilitated greater collaboration and collective responsibility.

As Group HR director, it is important to ensure that all colleagues, current and future, embody the behaviours we hold in esteem and invest in the values we collectively believe in.

This should be ingrained in the fabric of everything you do as an organisation and alignment to the company vision and values is key from the very beginning of a colleague’s engagement with you.

“Being innovative, actually innovating, has meant that we’ve had to be more open and experimental”

This manifests in all of the touchpoints in the attraction and selection process; ensuring adverts, recruitment sites and job descriptions articulate your company values and mission is critical.

Candidates should be looking at this information to be sure their application is to a business they have an affinity with.

They should expect to be asked about these things at interview, see it in the people they interact with and, if successful, onboarded and inducted with this in mind – some would refer to this as the ‘golden thread’.

Managers are key to all of this and will ensure it is lived and breathed every day, long after the new team member has completed their induction and settled into their role.


At CEG our vision is to Achieve More in everything we do.  For our students, our colleagues and our partners across the globe.  The more practical components of this vision are the building blocks of our business.  And never have they been more relevant than throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, as I share below.


We have communicated clearly, regularly and honestly.  We have created two-way dialogue mechanisms to keep our teams connected and support their well-being.

Our HR team launched a tool which provides live feedback on where everyone is, and how they are health-wise, the insights of which drive the support we give on a truly personal level.  Our #CEGConnected strategy has never been more important.


We (practically overnight) ensured that all of our colleagues could work from home.

“Our vision is to Achieve More in everything we do”

In the shortest of timeframes our incredible IT team built and shipped over 200 laptops to our workforce, accelerated the rollout of training for systems like Microsoft Teams, all whilst migrating the business to new cloud environments, which was planned prior to Covid-19.

And that wasn’t all.  Each and every one of our colleagues has demonstrated versatility, amazing work ethic and perseverance (let’s be honest!) to ensure productivity was maintained throughout.


Whilst practically we have had to do a lot of things differently to shift to digital delivery (and we’ve learned something from each of them) it’s the strengthened aspects of our culture that we are most proud of and want to perpetuate into the future.

As we expand our business further, we have no doubt it will be the power of this unifying culture – something to get behind, something to believe in (and our inspiring colleagues embodying it) that will attract more people to want to work with us to achieve more in this new digital age of education.

And it’s more important now than ever as the culture of businesses worldwide is being put to the test in ways we never imagined.


Laura Wardley-Smith has been Group HR director at Cambridge Education Group since February 2019.


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