Top Take Away Tips from Digital Union’s Developing Talent Event

17 June 2019

Alex Hill, Digital Marketing Lead at Digital Union summarises the top tips offered to over 40 businesses at the recent Digital Union Breakfast Networking event, which focuses on ‘Developing Talent’.

‘After some discussion amongst the Digital Union team and our Member base, we decided we wanted to open our events not just to the Director of a company, but the team too. After all, it is the team that drives a company forward.

The first type of this event took place on 11th June and focused on ‘Developing Talent’.

We welcomed talks from Tombola, HR Dept, and Drummond Central who explained to our attendees their story of how to take control of talent development and improve their company culture as a result.

Below, I’ve summarised the top tips that we learned from each business:


Mark Scott from Tombola kicked off the session, telling us all about how Tombola works closely with local colleges to recruit bright young students as apprentices for the company.

At just 12 years old, Tombola now has offices in Sunderland, Milan, Madrid, and Copenhagen, but are proud to say they are born and bred here in the North East. They are unique in the fact they build all of their own games in-house – in fact, a lot of their games were first designed by junior members of staff, who pitched their ideas to the CEO.

Tombola Academy, their apprenticeship scheme, has come with both successes and challenges. They partnered with Newcastle College, Gateshead College and Sunderland College, and took the top 10 students from each, based on behaviour rather than ability, and brought them in for a week. An apprentice at Tombola can actually create a game and shape the tech landscape and company – they are a long-term investment, treated as an individual rather than a number. They receive the same benefits as every other member of staff.

A full week in Tombola replaced an hour-long interview, and the students experienced what it would be like to work there. Their task was to create a game in a week, in any language and on any platform, to then present it back on the Friday to 40+ developers. They have free reign of the week. The games were built in a very high standard, and Tombola has now hired 8 of those students across the colleges.


We then welcomed Shaunie Fletcher and Stephen Drummond from Drummond Central to talk about their new work experience programme – School of DC.

The idea of School of DC came about because they found their work experience students weren’t getting anything out of their placements, and the company wasn’t benefiting from ‘babysitting’ students for a week.

School of DC involves bringing 4-5 kids in for 2 weeks, where they work on a live brief. They give them workshops led by industry professionals, including how to digest a brief or pitch their ideas. The work created was actually used in the client campaign.


Finally, HR Dept. gave us 5 tips on how smaller business can attract and retain talent.

  1. Build an employer brand that shouts about how good you are to work with. Tell people about what is good about working in your business, and ensure you are pushing your brand values. Review your social media channels and ensure they reflect what it is like to work in your company. Short videos from employees talking about the great things about working in your company is great content for this.
  2. Build a community of people you might want to work with. Interact with people in your industry and hold events in order to build relationships. Interacting with these people and building these lists becomes useful when you post a vacancy, and you can directly contact them.
  3. Sell the benefits of working for a smaller business. In a smaller company, you can really make your mark, forge your path and make a difference. Make potential staff aware of this.
  4. Regardless of how small the business is, put pay structures and career development plans in place. Determine how these will be measured, and tweak them as you go along and as the company grows. Employees want to know how they will progress and how they will be rewarded.
  5. A salary that isn’t benchmarked, not offering the 28 day holiday, no sick pay and a pension can be a turn-off for people looking for work. Offering these things may be a short-term small price to pay, but in the long-term, will help retain your staff.

 How do you develop talent in your organisation?

 Look out for the next Digital Union Breakfast Networking event coming soon!

About the Author

Alex is the Digital Marketing Lead at Digital Union, the leading business network for creative digital and tech companies. DU holds regular free-to-attend events including networking breakfasts, workshops, and the occasional party where they welcome everyone in the team to come along and learn something new.

Find out more about our digital projects here.

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