Many organisations are dependent on volume recruitment, whether as part of an annual programme intake, seasonal requirements or expansion. The roles required are often front-line, customer-facing positions critical for business success and brand building. The current scarcity of jobs, and the ease with which individuals can now apply online, means recruiters are deluged with applications, most of which are unsuitable.
As a result, many organisations resort to a tick-box, automated approach to volume recruitment with minimal consideration of the values they want represented in their candidates. However, broad-brush advertising campaigns that focus on experience and skill over the values required fundamentally affect service quality. Additionally, limited personal communication throughout the recruitment process and inconsistent selection methods result in patchy candidate quality and experience, high attrition rates and greater costs over the long term as people are replaced.
Jo Carr, resourcing service director of people services business Independent, explains how the organisation has partnered with infant retailer Kiddicare for its recent series of volume recruitment campaigns – the company has seen 10 new stores opening across the country in just 11 months – and how it has worked to a clearly defined methodology with clearly defined values. This has been essential to the success of the project.
Testament to this has been the overwhelmingly positive feedback received from candidates following each of the final assessment centre events. When, for many retailers and other consumer-facing organisations, customer base and candidate pool overlap substantially, the nature of the recruitment journey can have a significant impact on customer care and the organisation’s reputation in the marketplace.
In Carr’s experience, there are eight important steps towards a successful volume recruitment campaign:
It is important that the recruitment team links closely with colleagues in operations, finance, IT, HR and project management to build a resource plan that ensures delivery against the company’s strategic objectives. Critically, the plan needs to be flexible enough to withstand unpredictable internal and external factors, such as sourcing enough available candidates. Key factors to establish at this stage will be employee type, values required, location, timing, cost and deployed methodology.
2. Technology and management information
Using a tailored candidate management system to manage applications and track progress is essential due to the sheer volume of applications received. However, while technology provides back-office governance through consistent tracking and reporting, candidates do not want to communicate to a potential employer through software. Through Independent’s work with Kiddicare, it found regular personal contact with candidates is essential to keep the process running smoothly, retain the best candidates and generate positive feeling around the brand. Having an efficient candidate management system allows businesses to manage talent pools for future volume recruitment pushes. At Kiddicare, creating a pool of “close second” candidates and communicating with them regularly to check status and availability provided a fast and effective means of fulfilling future recruitment needs with candidates that were already engaged and informed about the organisation, and its values and culture.
Once the resource plan is agreed, a targeted, comprehensive attraction strategy incorporating key values can be tailored to sector and location. For example, at Kiddicare, the target audience was reached through advertising at bus stops and cafes, as many did not necessarily have online access. Local advertising on TV and radio, posters, store-front banners, the company website, job boards and social media can drive awareness and applications, but the approach needs to be targeted and straightforward. At this early stage, it is critical to communicate key messages about the nature of the roles and values required. This allows for “natural de-selection” so that those who reach the screening stage have the right attributes and availability.
Clarity about exactly what criteria candidates are being screened against and the consistency with which they are applied is critical to the success of the process. It is important to identify precisely what is being assessed and at what stage. This could be technical screening, values/behavioural screening or fact-based screening (for example, availability to work required shifts).
For an organisation like Kiddicare, screening against values is paramount, with emphasis placed on community, family and passion for the customer. A method such as telephone screening also allows candidates to understand the nature and requirements of the role more clearly. These screens need to be consistent throughout the process to ensure fairness and sound, measurable data. This is also an ideal time to notify candidates about next steps, helping to manage expectations and reduce queries.
The key to running a successful selection event is to build the right approach for the right audience. Whether the process involves panel interviews or full-scale assessment centres, failing to tailor it effectively risks misjudging candidates, alienating your target audience and detrimentally affecting service quality.
For Kiddicare, assessment centres were always referred to as “recruitment events” in order to put candidates at ease and minimise fears about “performing”. Absolute priority was given to making candidates feel relaxed so they could give their best. Many were either new to the workforce or had been out of work for some time, whether through unemployment or taking a career break to raise a family. Similarly, explaining and regularly re-capping what was taking place throughout the day helped participants relax and minimised questions and confusion. The overwhelmingly positive feedback received from participants after each recruitment event confirmed the effectiveness of this approach.
6. Pre-employment checks
It is vital to ensure this stage of the process is watertight. Overlook or rush the collation and certification of “right to work” or identification documents, reference, credit or Criminal Record Bureau checks, and businesses could find themselves in breach of the law.
7. Managing candidate communication
In contrast to many volume recruitment campaigns, taking a personal approach to candidate communication is a highly effective way of instilling trust and keeping candidates informed and engaged. Regular communication by phone and email smooths the recruitment process, builds goodwill towards the brand and minimises drop-outs. In an age when negative feedback can gain momentum via social media, communicating clearly and with compassion is more important than it has ever been.
8. Offer and onboarding
Once the offer letters are sent, many organisations assume the recruitment process is over. However, by not continuing to engage with new employees up to and beyond their start date, businesses risk undoing some of the hard work and planning that has gone before. Disillusioned and unprepared new employees will inevitably impact productivity levels and service quality.
Jo Carr is resourcing service director for Independent, a people services business.
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