Personnel Today Awards 2020: Innovation in Recruitment shortlist

The DTSL team collect their Innovation in Recruitment Award at the 2019 Personnel Today Awards ceremony

With just a few weeks until we celebrate the Personnel Today Awards 2020, we profile the shortlisted organisations. The latest category under the spotlight is the award for Innovation in Recruitment.

Ambitious about Autism

Ambitious about Autism is a charity focused on helping children and young people to learn, thrive and achieve. Previously the organisation had relied on an intensive manual recruitment process, accepting applications over email and involving a lot of work with agencies. It wanted to reduce recruitment spend by half, modernise and improve the candidate journey, and improve team morale and efficiency.

Personnel Today Awards 2020

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The charity implemented a new applicant tracking system from eArcu. Through this it was able to introduce video adverts, video interviewing, analytics, onboarding and engaging welcome videos. In addition it has renewed its branding to be more colourful, introduced multi-media content and has made the overall process more transparent and accessible. These changes have increased hires to 200 staff per year over three key locations, while significantly driving down recruitment costs.

The amount of career site traffic has grown from 4,500 users in the first half of 2018 to 15,000 in the first half of 2020, significantly increasing outreach. Using the platform has reduced agency spend from £179,000 in 2018 to £47,000 in 2019, and overall hiring spend from £314,000 to £105,000. In-house recruiters can now focus on targeted and direct hires. The amount of organic traffic from search engines and referrals also grew by 38%. The charity passed rigorous accessibility testing to gain AA compliance with the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.



At the start of 2019, Bupa was not receiving the best value, performance or scope of services from its recruitment model. It wanted to change how it attracted, selected and hired talent.

The company’s research had highlighted that volume recruitment was fragmented, there were poor relationships with stakeholders and an outsourcing partner had been underperforming. Candidate experience was not always consistent and there were no economies of scale.

In response it set up a Centre of Expertise for strategic and consistent resourcing across the UK; built an in-house recruitment service across four business units and an executive hiring function; implemented a candidate relationship management system and created a new People Value Proposition to be showcased with a new careers website. The ‘Belief in You’ PVP, designed by agency Pink Squid, is at the centre of how Bupa attracts and retains talent.

In 2019 the new set-up helped Bupa achieve a cost saving of £252,000 by avoiding agency fees for executive hiring and reducing agency spend from 6% to 0.7% across professional hiring through direct sourcing. Average time to hire went down by 11 days in Q4 of 2019 compared to the period between January and August. Blind CVs and shortlists have been introduced to executive recruitment, with increases to black and minority ethnic (BAME) recruits. Bupa’s Glassdoor rating has increased from 3.8 to 3.9 an employer brand – according to a scorecard devised by Pink Squid – has increased from 58% to 83%. Finally, the initiatives have brought together four UK Bupa recruitment teams under a common resourcing methodology, for both permanent & non-permanent hiring.


Department of Health NI with HealthSectorTalent

Northern Ireland’s health and social care system employs 58,000 people and includes the Department of Health, Public Health, five NHS Trusts and Northern Ireland’s Ambulance Service. The system came under significant pressure during the coronavirus pandemic, with increased demand for services, higher than usual sickness absence and the need to rapidly build a contingent workforce. It also needed to facilitate the recruitment of final-year medical, nursing and allied health students, alongside doctors and nurses that had either retired or left the profession.

NI’s DoH responded by assembling a recruitment project team made up of key stakeholders, forming a central recruitment command and control centre to act as a single point of contact for all stakeholders and suppliers. Application and interview processes needed to adhere to protocols while working around restrictions such as social distancing and remote working. Over the course of 35 days, a team of 162 people working across nine organisations delivered the largest recruitment campaign of its kind in Northern Ireland.

Candidates had to complete a two-step registration and application, selecting their occupation group and preferred geographical location. A total of 20,085 initial expressions of interest were received by the campaign with over 4,000 in the first 24 hours of being launched. These then needed to be screened before formal application – 11,642 formal applications were completed representing a 57.9% conversion rate from expressions of interest received. Candidates were kept updated at every stage of the process.

While there is no directly comparative data as the pandemic was a new challenge, the success of the recruitment campaign can be measured against the Republic of Ireland’s Covid-19 hiring drive, which only resulted in 63 candidates starting. In Northern Ireland, 420 nurses were recruited directly by six employers, bypassing the need to use agencies. The equivalent cost of recruiting this number of nurses from overseas would be over £4.6m, while the reduction in agency spend is around £19.4m per annum based on an hourly inclusive rate of £23.71.

Fujitsu Services

In spite of having an award-winning graduate recruitment programme, drop-out rates were nearly 50% during the process, with BAME candidates accounting for almost half of those incomplete applications. The company worked with Saville Assessment to review its initial screening so it could offer a better candidate experience.

Saville Assessment conducted research on what matters during an online assessment process and found that one of the most important factors was whether the role would be somewhere the candidate would like to stay. They were also looking for a positive impression of the brand, so Fujitsu wanted to communicate better what it would be like to work there and ensure the process was fair to all.

The process was overhauled to include a bespoke situational judgment test providing realistic scenarios of graduate life at Fujitsu. It also introduced the Swift Executive Aptitude Test which measures verbal, numeric and abstract reasoning. Branding included a ‘we’ve met before’ message making candidates aware they may have interacted with Fujitsu technology without having realised. Candidates had to look at four potential cases studies around artificial intelligence, cloud technology, big data and wi-fi.

The new application and assessment process has increased the quality of candidates progressing to assessment centre and an 18% overall increase in candidate completions. Candidates can be screened through to video interview stage in less than an hour, saving the talent team hundreds of hours of manual reviews and scoring. There has been a 19% increase in completed applications by BAME candidates and an 8% increase in complete applications by women. The proportion of candidates who gained a place on the scheme having received free school meals as a child went up by a fifth. Feedback included: “The questions were really relevant and situations I would actually encounter in my role”, and candidates expressed positive impressions of Fujitsu’s brand.

North Yorkshire Police

North Yorkshire Police undertook in-depth research into how it should adapt its workforce up to 2025. This helped it understand what it would need from leaders and colleagues of the future, and how it needed to change traditional approaches to recruitment and assessment, which were embedded across the force.

Its strategy involved the introduction of strengths-based recruitment across the force to unlock potential and build a values-based culture. It also brought in innovative recruitment technology, created a new framework to support a more consistent recruitment approach and achieved top-down buy-in from the deputy chief constable to other teams below. The new approach required upskilling the talent and resourcing team, with workshops on candidate experience alongside full and comprehensive training for assessors involved in revised selection processes.

The force has used a range of innovative assessment tools including an online immersive assessment, strengths-based interview, micro-exercises and was the first force in the country to use virtual reality. The new assessment process is used across all promotion boards to maintain a consistent approach to recruitment and assessor feedback is excellent.

Virtual reality has become a unique selling point alongside other changes to assessment methodology, with 88% of candidates saying the experience of the strengths-based promotion process is excellent or very good. Just over two-thirds of candidates now rate the process as fair and consistent, in comparison to 28% previously. One candidate rated the promotion experience as “a good way of testing my strengths in a completely new way”. Assessors overwhelmingly felt the new process helped candidates to perform to the best of their ability. “It also helped us see strengths with the candidates that might not have come through under previous schemes,” said one.

Schroders with Aon’s Assessment Solutions

Schroders is a global investment management firm, employing 5,000 people in 32 locations worldwide. It needed to define a talent strategy adapting to sector trends and legislation, bringing talent acquisition in line with technology, best practice, core business changes and market-leading developments. It wanted to standardise processes to screen applicants more efficiently while meeting its goals of having a globally diverse and inclusive workforce.

Schroders worked with Aon to bring in more effective screening functionality, improvements to the depth and rigour of assessment for hiring managers, a positive and inclusive experience for candidates, more transparency and to embrace stakeholder requirements of quality, availability and quick time to hire. Aon built ‘ADEPT’, a framework that measures candidates’ ‘can-do’ potential based on what they most enjoy doing and how they react to situations they would find themselves in if they got the role. Successful candidates would then progress to a video interview that uses artificial intelligence through a bank of 700 questions. This analyses the content of candidates’ speech in line with measured competencies.

Additionally, CVs for early recruitment were replaced by a custom assessment report outlining overall fit, while video interviews were scored against behavioural competencies. The result was an engaging, seamless single sign-on candidate experience with 97% completion rates, with bespoke feedback and development tips. The overall candidate rating as a Net Promoter Score was 80, where anything over 50 is outstanding. Screening is more efficient, with the first stage sifting 30%, and objective scores mean hiring managers can save time without losing quality candidates. The use of AI has reduced some of the potential for human bias, meaning the process is fairer.

Serco with Aon’s Assessment Solutions

Serco manages six prisons, employing 1,200 prison custody officers and the same number of escort custody service employees, hiring 400 people into these roles annually. Staffing levels are up to 100% from 86% from two years ago but turnover is still high at 40%, with 47% leaving in the first 12 months. This means recruitment is a massive task, and Serco wanted to innovate its application process.

Serco wanted a process where candidates could de-select themselves early on if they thought the risks and realities of prison work were too much, and where they could self-assess their attitude, skills and mindset to understand the impact they could have. It wanted to automate the process to reduce manual recruitment, and refocus the work of the team on attraction and candidate experience. It also needed to make the experience more engaging and educational, improve staffing levels and attrition, and reduce candidate numbers but provide stronger shortlists.

The new process allows candidates to complete a job pathfinder to see which role they are more suited (or not); there is a situational judgment questionnaire involving realistic scenarios produced in prisons and prison vehicles; and there is then an assessment centre to help Serco understand candidates’ resilience, whether they can manage conflict and what they would do in hypothetical situations.

The changes have saved on administration costs through automating the recruitment process, have created a competitive edge as officers choose to stay, with a 10% reduction in turnover within 12 months. The videos and situational judgment tests are not used in other prison services and help well-suited candidates find their vocation and others to deselect. Anthony Kirby, Group HR director at Serco, sums up: “We needed to address the problem at its root cause – recruiting the right people with empathy, resilience and confidence – yet we needed to make it really clear that this role is about making tough choices.”

Surrey County Council

Recruiting for adult social care is a challenge, but Surrey County Council has made significant progress in the past few years – moving from a highly transactional and administrative process to one where it has become an employer of choice. Core to this has been building a strong digital and social media presence and strong collaboration between teams.

One major campaign is for the learning disability and autism team – a team that needs to recruit high volumes of social workers and team managers. SCC used internal communications across the council to highlight opportunities and encourage employees to share within their own networks, and agencies were engaged. Advert wording was revitalised to make it more human and engaging and opened up opportunities to speak to the team. The new campaign, supported by social media, resulted in a reach of more than 30,000, with more than 500 engagements.

When this team was ready to expand, SCC built on its prior success by showing the recruits on a simple iPhone video celebrating an anniversary of when they started. Additionally, the council proactively searched on LinkedIn, highlighting the developmental opportunities available and including a video from the director of adult social care on why they should apply. Sixty applications have resulted in 10 new members to the team and positive feedback on the recruitment and attraction processes.

The progression from an administrative function to a team that consistently adds value to the recruitment needs across the council means SCC is now a recognised leader in public sector recruitment.

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