What has working through a pandemic taught us about recruitment?

March 4, 2022

Post Title

In our latest blog Rayvathi John, Health Innovation Network People Lead, reflects on how we get the recruitment process right and what is important in the hiring process in an ever competitive employment market.

Getting recruitment right, for every post, it is crucial to ensure not just that our important work is completed to a high level, but also that we engender the right culture at any organisation. A lot has changed in the way we hire and onboard our new starters at the Health Innovation Network (HIN) over the last two years. We have made some significant changes, and I am keen to share some of my experiences.

As People Lead, there are two questions I ask myself when it comes to recruitment.

The first is what is important in the hiring process? Is it simply finding the right candidate who can do the job or appointing the right candidate through a fair process which is without any hiring biases? NHS appointments and recruitment systems are robust and compliant with the Equality Act. This helps mitigate some of the issues of unfair practices at the application stage.

The second question is how can we attract the right candidates? How can we be the employer of choice? Gone are the days where it was the employer’s market. With globalisation and the HIN being located in the capital of the country, it is important to be competitive in the employment market. This is getting harder for the NHS as the demands of the workforce have changed and many more employers are also offering great pension schemes and improved work life balance schemes. So, how can we sell and promote our job roles to attract the right candidate where we have limitations in what we can offer to the candidate? How can we seek the best candidate from across the sectors to make NHS teams reflect with wider experience?

So what does attract candidates?

According to Hays’ data, 62 percent of professionals would be willing to take a pay cut for a job with more purpose. “Money is important, but it’s about having that compelling purpose and visions,” says Cathy Donnelly, Sr Director, Talent at Liberty IT. “We need to help people understand the difference they can make.” We are fortunate at the HIN that our jobs do have purpose and make a difference to NHS staff and patients and innovators in south London and we need to demonstrate our understanding of that. For example some of our latest projects have demonstrated the value that remote consultations, teledermatology, and virtual wards can add.

This is why it is vital during interviews that we promote the projects the HIN undertakes and the impact they have on the lives of patients and society – did you know that one of our Innovation Grant funded projects provided health checks for 441 people across six health clinics at local Black Caribbean and Black African Churches, a Tamil template and two mosques? We need to ‘recruit with reputation’ by emphasising our values of being kind, brave, open, together and different, so candidates are able to feel the culture as well as the work we deliver.

We were able to put this into practice in 2020 and 2021 when we had a number of business-critical appointments in the organisation, including a new CEO and a Chair. The process for the appointment of the CEO and Chair was intense but with a clear expectation that we wanted to appoint based on merit with equality of opportunity for all. Jobs were advertised externally on NHS jobs, NHS Executives, LinkedIn and Twitter for maximum coverage.

We engaged with stakeholders who know how the HIN operates and how the success of the appointment would be measured, including using our key external stakeholders, Board members, diverse panels and our host organisation. As with all recruitments, there was a need to balance conducting an efficient process but making sure the right candidate was appointed so that there was not an adverse impact on the HIN’s performance.

Having been a candidate using NHS Jobs or Trac to apply for a vacancy, I have at times felt extremely frustrated trying to complete the online application form. I am sure all the applicants who applied to the role of the CEO and Chair might have felt the same frustration. While the application process can still do with some improvement, the improvements to the anonymous shortlisting and online working have helped make the process run more smoothly and is a practical step to protect against bias.

We are a great place to work and we invest a lot of time getting our recruitment right. As we continue our journey towards becoming an outstanding organisation, we will be focusing on improving the responsiveness of our services, and looking for innovative ways to further promote equality, diversity and inclusion in our recruitment process.

If you would like to share your innovative ways of recruitment or if you need more information on our processes, please feel free to connect with me at rayvathi.john1@nhs.net.