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Brighton & Hove’s latest driver recruitment campaign has been a roaring success, reports Angela Youngman

Who better to talk about what life is like as a bus driver than an actual bus driver? Recruitment campaigns increasingly include this opportunity – but Brighton & Hove/Metrobus has taken this a step further by creating an innovative, eyecatching film involving drivers talking about their daily life.

Paul Waite, Recruitment & Training Co-ordinator at Brighton & Hove/Metrobus, part of the Go-Ahead Group, explained: “We looked at some existing recruitment films and felt they were too glossy and didn’t really represent the work of a bus driver. We wanted something more natural, so I came up with the proposal of using our staff for a recruitment film.”

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That realisation marked the start of an innovative project creating a recruitment film in which existing staff and bus drivers took centre stage, demonstrating what life is like behind the scenes and how bus drivers are an important part of the community.

Brighton & Hove/Metrobus Managing Director, Martin Harris, pointed out: “The film gives a real sense of who we are and what it’s like to work here. Our drivers put their hearts and souls into what they do and that’s what we look for when we take people on – that spark and that realisation that we are about much more than getting people from A to B. We want people with good driving skills, but they also need to be good communicators and to want to serve our communities.”

By using ordinary staff employed by the company, Brighton & Hove/Metrobus felt that they could create a much more realistic, honest understanding of what life as a bus driver really entails. With no script, just a storyboard outlining the film, it could be responsive to the driver’s comments, highlighting their outlook and the way they perceive long term opportunities within the company.

“Recruitment personnel talk about the work all the time, and can become blinkered,” said Paul. “Using members of staff to promote what they do enables them to talk about the pitfalls and advantages such as yes you might start early morning, or finish late but we can get you home because we have a ferry vehicle. It is all about honesty – it can be hard work, it can be long hours but the rewards are good. It is well paid and a good way of serving the community.”

His colleague Dean Lefevre, Deputy Co-ordinator, added: “We decided we wanted to make the film as honest as possible, using our own staff. We steered well away from using actors because we wanted to portray our staff and company in a factual light. Everyone filmed in the video works for us.”

From start to finish, the project took five months to complete. This included devising the idea, finding a company, setting a budget, deciding on story boards, filming and production. The resultant film, People Like You, was launched at the beginning of February.

A fresh idea

Elisa and Celia were among the 13 cast members

The film focuses on scenes from a driver’s typical day beginning with daily vehicle checks, driving different types of bus routes, relaxing off duty in the canteen with other staff, glimpses of life in the depot, and eventually paying-in at the end of the day. Along the way, drivers discuss how they feel about their jobs together with the job’s advantages such as pay, pensions, holidays, job security, social life, varied work patterns, independence out on the road and long term career opportunities.

Paul commented: “We arranged for several production companies to come in and see Paul Harding, Head of Training; Dean and myself. We sat down with them and discussed what we were looking for. Georgia and her producer Tom from NICE Productions came in and instantly understood what we were trying to do. They looked at our ideas and said yes, we can do that. And have you thought of this? “

The initial idea of simply filming a day in the life of a bus driver was quickly rejected because it would have been too long. Instead, the team opted for glimpses of key parts of the bus driver’s day, along with unscripted interviews with some of the drivers.

“We wanted to steer away from using scripted interviews, so we could capture exactly what being a bus driver is really like. The questions were different each time – and even we did not know what the interviewer would choose to ask,” said Dean.

There was no problem finding suitable drivers to take part. The company was fully behind the idea and made the drivers/cast available for the filming. Paul explained what happened: “We contacted the depot managers saying that we were looking for drivers to take part. Who did they think would be suitable, represented our diverse workforce, and possessed a good understanding of all that the job entails? Everyone had a chance to be picked. We ended up with 13 cast members out of a short list of 111 drivers. Timing was all important. From Brighton & Hove, Said Hamani and Celia Waite (Celia and another driver gave up a rest day to support the project) were released from duties as was Donna Whyton from Metrobus.”

All three drivers had been working for Brighton & Hove/Metrobus for some years: Celia for four years, Said for five years and Donna for 10 years. All were surprised and flattered at being asked to take part.

Said commented: “It felt really good to be involved. It was unscripted and we were kind of just thrown into it and it felt quite challenging at times. It has definitely boosted my own confidence and brushed up my interview skills as I didn’t know what questions would be asked.”

Donna had the same reaction. “Everyone knows I love my job and it is good to get other people to think they could drive a bus. The film has been shared on social media and I have had colleagues commenting on it. The filming has made me more confident, it was nice to be asked to participate and that my managers thought I would be good for it.”

Celia added: “It is a good way of talking about the job, and showing that females can drive buses. It makes people realise just how much I do in my job, and how I relate to customers. We are part of the community. The film put me in a very positive light and I hope that other women come forward join the industry. There is so much scope and I now do mentoring as well.”

On location
Filming took place in two depots as well as out on the road – which involved a fast learning curve for the drivers, as Paul explained: “Some drivers used in the filming were unfamiliar with the type of bus (a new ADL Enviro400ER) or the route so they had to learn quickly. Once they were on the bus, they didn’t worry about what they were doing and Georgia put them at ease immediately for the filming and interviews.”

He continued: “We had two days’ filming. One day was at our Metrobus Crawley Depot, which also showed the engineers at work, and then Conway Street Depot with scenes in the canteen area and customer unit/controllers. The second day of filming was out on the roads. This involved 15 hours of filming, leaving the depot at 0600hrs and finishing with cashing in at the end of the day. We had a theme and the production company ran with tour storyboards. We had given them an idea of the type of subjects we wanted the drivers to talk about, but no one knew exactly what questions were coming.

“Everyone knew what was going on in the depots during the filming. They all understood it was for the benefit of the company and the workforce. We took up part of the canteen for the filming and other drivers just came in for their breaks. They watched and behaved normally. We just asked for quiet whenever there was a take. They were all helpful.”

The only hitch to the filming process was choosing the music to accompany it. “It took a couple of meetings to get the right tempo,” Paul recalled, “but the easiest to do was the drone footage. After filming it took two weeks to get it finalised and sent to our company directors for their comments. Their reactions surprised me! They were ecstatic, they were really impressed.”

Positive reaction
The release of the film immediately provoked similar reactions. It has been universally admired. Other drivers in the company have been impressed by the way the job is portrayed and the way Said, Donna and Celia responded to the interviewer, as Said indicated: “Colleagues and regular passengers have seen the video and I have had some nice compliments.”

There has already been some potential applicants for the role of bus driver who have remarked that seeing the film sparked their interest in the job. More plaudits are likely when the film starts being used as part of the normal recruitment process at events like Women Behind the Wheel at Brighton Dome on International Women’s day. A projector has been installed in the training bus to enable members of the public to watch the film.

Paul said: “Overall the feedback has been very positive with comments such as ‘it is a breath of fresh air.’ Other managers in the Go-Ahead business have been looking at it with interest and thinking how they can use it. The story has come up on LinkedIn and other social media resulting in a lot of positive comments, showing that other industries are equally as interested in the concept.”

It is not just recruitment departments that are showing an interest in this style of film. Other areas have been quick to recognise that using real people and members of staff offers considerable potential, as Dean indicated: “We have identified a new resource. It is a good way of meeting learning goals. Other departments are looking at it and we can see how we could use it for driver training. The film has inspired a lot of people to think about its potential use. The only thing that might hold things back is the financial cost.”

Paul added: “Feedback from our marketing department and other operating companies in the group show that people are looking at ways of extending the concept. Other company departments including engineering and health and safety are looking at how they could use it as a training aid. This is a concept which has a lot of potential.”

There is no doubt that Brighton & Hove/Metrobus is pleased with the outcome of this innovative recruitment project. The training department – of which recruitment forms a part – has been nominated for a company award and Paul is already considering putting the film forward for other awards.

View the film on the Brighton & Hove website: