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Hans F. Hansen

Why it is important to recruit for values early and three ways to start…

This week I am delighted to share this guest post from Neil Eastwood… As the title suggests three great tips for adding VBR to your recruitment processes.

There is little doubt that recruitment will be the top business risk for social care employers throughout the coming decade. With the increasing pressure on recruiters and managers to find staff, so another threat grows: the temptation to lower your hiring standards to fill vacancies. In many cases, falling applicant volumes coupled with a frustratingly high interview no-show rate have meant that hiring managers may only have one candidate for consideration or often none.

Against this background, it is understandable that managers might convince themselves that giving someone the benefit of the doubt is acceptable. But “If I can get six weeks out of them, it should cover my costs” is not a justifiable reason for an employment offer when considering the duty of care we have to those we support. That’s why values-based recruitment (VBR) should be at the heart of employers’ recruitment strategies. Skills for Care has championed VBR for several years and there are excellent resources on their website, so I don’t propose to repeat those here. Rather, I would suggest we can take three simple steps to significantly increase the potential for the right values amongst our applicant pool before we get to the interview.

1. Reduce our reliance on active job seeker sources

Most social care employers compete with each other for the attention of job seekers on Internet job boards. I estimate 50%-75% of all applicants for care roles are coming from this source. This is a problem when we are looking to recruit for values for several reasons. Firstly, many active job seekers’ primary motivation is to find paid employment, rather than a calling for care. Secondly, a large minority of Internet job board applicants for care roles have paid care experience. The question here is ‘why have they left the people they care for?’ There can be benign reasons, but with 10-15% of leavers being dismissed and employment references unhelpful, it presents a risk for recruiting employers. Thirdly, the time taken chasing high numbers of elusive applicants is time not spent on activating and nurturing much higher quality recruitment channels as we will discuss later.

So, one way of improving the quality of the applicant pool is to cut back on Internet job boards and increase exposure to passive job seekers. These are people who have been identified by someone, such as a member of staff, or identify themselves by their behaviours, as having the values we seek. There are many more passive applicants in any recruitment hinterland around a care setting than there are active job seekers. Typically eight to ten times as many. They are just more challenging to find.

2. Don’t shortlist using a CV alone

The CV is common currency in the job seeker market, but it is of limited use to social care recruiters. Aside from identifying job hoppers – and that is often airbrushed out – a CV gives limited or zero insight into an applicant’s values. As an example, the most common experience that brings high-performing care workers into the sector is caring for a loved one (more on that here: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/neil-eastwood-334344_care-staff-recruitment-activity-6605008492044652544-t7zk). That is rarely added to a CV, as family carers can feel this will be seen as a negative to prospective employers, whereas it is quite the opposite for our sector.

Insisting on a CV has two other downsides. With between 50-70% of applicants preferring to apply via their mobile phone, being asked to upload a CV whilst using a mobile phone is a big barrier and usually results in abandoned applications. In addition, passive job seekers are much less likely to have a CV ready or have one at all. So this dissuades some of our highest potential applicants.

3. Look for evidence of values through specific behaviours and experience

There has been a focus on VBR around the interview stage. This is logical as it is the first time you get to meet the candidate and can assess visual cues as well as probe for evidence of the behaviours you seek. But we can do much to increase the quality of the candidate pool, firstly as I mentioned, by reducing our dependence on Internet job boards and CVs, but also by being more targeted with our sourcing in the community around us. One way is to reach out to those with informal care experience; another might be to look for places where we can come into contact with those who are volunteering or giving their time for others. Both are indicators of the values we seek.

By far the best channels to reach people handpicked for their values are word of mouth – driven by your reputation locally – and employee referrals. These two channels alone brought in half of all high-performing care staff in a research I have undertaken over the past five years. By being an employer of choice, you will build your employer brand reputation and make your staff confident that recommending their friends to join them is something they will actively seek to do.

As the labour market tightens, letting values-based recruitment drive your sourcing strategy will bring you into contact with a better quality talent pool, in many cases not on the radar of other local employers, and reduce frustration processing evasive and half-hearted applicants. Quite soon afterwards, it will bring your staff turnover down and improve the quality and consistency of the care you provide.

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