More and more employers consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals as part of their recruitment and attraction strategies, but fewer do so as part of their contingent recruitment. Government procurement arm the Crown Commercial Service talked to Personnel Today about its commitment to social value.
Investment in temporary labour is on the rise across many organisations – particularly as they deal with the unpredictability unleashed by the pandemic.
But it’s perhaps less well known that the public sector makes up around a third of the UK’s spend on contingent workers, investing around £3.2 billion per year.
The public sector recruits contingent workers from right across the board – from cleaners and office managers to scientists and even interim chief executives. The Crown Commercial Service, the government’s procurement department, works with 18,000 public sector bodies to support their contract and temporary worker needs.
CCS is part of the Cabinet Office and is responsible for setting up commercial agreements for public sector organisations to contract with suppliers.
Since 2018, it has been working with AMS Ltd on a Public Sector Resourcing (PSR) agreement to supply workers to both central government departments and wider government employers, with more than 20,000 workers engaged.
While the mechanics of engaging contingent workers through the PSR are working well, CCS is now focused on ensuring it generates social value in the way it recruits.
In September 2020, the Cabinet Office published new guidance requiring all central government contracts to evaluate social value as part of their procurement processes, and groups this under five overarching themes: fighting climate change, Covid-19 recovery response, tackling economic inequality, equal opportunity and wellbeing.
The aim is that government organisations use their engagements with recruiters and other suppliers as an opportunity to do good in areas such as D&I, carbon reduction and social mobility.
“Social value is the golden thread that runs through all of our recruitment activities,” explains Celia Harrington, category lead at CCS. “I’m not sure this is something that is commonly addressed in the contingent worker market.”
Data and diversity
One aspect of this is collecting data on the demographics of the contingent workforce to see where groups may be under-represented.
Philip Taylor, a category manager for public sector resourcing at CCS, adds: “We capture diversity well for most permanent workers across the civil service, but when it comes to the temporary space, not many organisations understand what their data looks like. Our belief is that talent is everywhere, but opportunity isn’t.”
On diversity, CCS takes a three pronged approach: firstly asking contractors to share their personal characteristics beyond basic information but within data protection rules; then analysing it to see if groups with certain protected characteristics are under-represented or to benchmark against similar employers; and finally taking action to improve, such as ensuring jobs are advertised in a way that promotes inclusion and diversity.
Across the board
Because talent attraction happens across such a range of departments and roles, this can be a challenge, says Harrington. Each employer using the PSR contract has their own account manager within AMS but there is also a central management team in CCS that helps to maximise the benefits of PSR.
“Our customers have different needs and skills requirements, but if we are able to collect diversity data and break it down for them it can inform their strategies as well,” she adds.
Responses to the data have included plans to trial name-blind recruitment – something unusual in the contingent labour market, and inviting hiring managers and recruiters to roundtables focused on social value issues.
“We want to make sure our workforce – including our contingent workforce – reflects and represents our communities.” – Celia Harrington, Crown Commercial Service
Looking further ahead, CCS is working with AMS to ensure they are making the most of government schemes such as Kickstart, which supports new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.
Reflecting the community
It is also working with AMS to engage external support groups to expand its pool of talent, including Bridge of Hope, a charity that supports the homeless into work, and Auticon, a social enterprise that employs neurodiverse adults.
“We want to make sure our workforce – including our contingent workforce – reflects and represents our communities,” says Harrington. The increased shift to remote and hybrid working could expand opportunities to increase social value, she adds.
“Remote work could provide us with greater opportunities as people don’t have to live close to the workplace, and it’s very much tied into people’s wellbeing too.
“We can’t support people in the same way as permanent employees [in terms of rights and benefits] but we do need to think about their wellbeing.”
As the shape of the workforce changes for many organisations after the pandemic, Taylor concludes that employers have a rare opportunity to add value in the way they hire, rather than focusing on a race to the bottom.
“This is not just about managing a contingent worker contract where we get the best price. Our structure means we can think out of the box; we try to innovate and lead in the right way.”