When it comes to graduate recruitment, the team at Capita know exactly the qualities they are looking for in an applicant. “Our focus is on future leaders,” says Catherine Possamai, Director of Talent and Resourcing. “We want young people with the potential to go all the way to the top.”

Capita is the UK’s largest business process outsourcing and professional services company. Working behind other people’s brands, Capita builds businesses based on solving the problems of clients such as DEFRA, the NHS and O2. Its 70,000 plus staff are empowered to use their own initiative within a very non-hierarchical structure. There is no grade system to progress through.

For those who like structure and process, this approach could be “scary”, admits Possamai, but the potential for personal advancement is limitless. “Our business model offers enormous variety for those who want to take risks and push forward,” she says. “It’s very much down to how ambitious you are.”


The master class

There are around 100 graduates on the Capita programme, and all benefit from pursuing a master’s at Ashridge Business School in Hertfordshire, something no other company scheme offers. Networking days also ensure that recruits have contact with managing directors and the Capita board also invests a huge amount of their time and energy. Data analytics is seenas crucial by companies to make better business decisions and Capita’s graduate programme has a stream dedicated to this.

A Cambridge graduate, Chris Sellers has thrived in Capita’s culture. After joining as a sales executive in 2005, he recognised the potential of the health market, approached the executive board and was asked to put a business plan together. His idea was turned into a £200 million health-division business. Today, Sellers is an executive director with responsibility for Group Sales. He also helps mentor new graduates. “Capita is very specialised – we are almost a conglomeration of independent businesses – and our culture is built on high growth,” says Sellers. “So we’re always looking for new markets and expanding where we have a foothold. We empower people to spot opportunities and we are looking for those who want stimulation, variety and creativity—and a challenge.”


Public and private partnerships

One of Capita’s many responsibilities is ensuring that the nation’s food supply chain is safe. FERA – formerly the Food and Environment Research Agency – is a joint venture it runs with the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It was FERA’s team of 450 scientists who were called in to assist in 2013 when horse meat was discovered in supermarket food. The FERA laboratory also tests samples taken from food and goods imported into the UK. “It’s keeping the UK safe from environmental diseases,” says Sellers, “while ensuring trade flows without damaging business.”

Implementing digital strategies is another challenge that Capita has risen to. Mobile phone provider O2 hired the company to reduce the hundreds of thousands of calls customer services received weekly. By improving O2’s website and implementing other initiatives, Capita has succeeded in reducing call volumes. “It’s about engaging with the customer in a way that is natural for them,” explains Sellers, “rather than doing what the organisation is used to.”

Effective leaders have to create an aspiring vision of the future. But Capita’s innovators go one step further. “We go beyond ideas,” says Sellers, “we also implement. Seeing those ideas become reality and seeing the difference being made to our clients makes a career here both intellectually challenging and highly rewarding.”