10 Features of Values-Based Recruitment in Wellbeing Teams
Commentary by Oonagh Smythe, CEO Skills for Care
It was 9.45 on a Thursday morning in November, and I was holding my breath. It was our first ever values-based recruitment workshop in a chilly church hall in Lytham St Annes. There were 15 minutes to go. We had invited 10 people to join the workshop, and so far our recruitment team of five (two people were helping us as experts by experience) outnumbered candidates by over 2:1.
There is a cynical joke amongst home care managers: if you can breathe, you can be a carer. It reflects the continuous cycle of recruitment to cover shifts and the 70% ‘churn’ in the sector. This means that 7 out of 10 carers have worked in other home care companies, constantly in search of a better working life. In traditional home care, recruitment takes place through a 30-minute interview which can have up to an 80% ‘no show’ rate.
While we were recruiting the first Wellbeing Team with our partner homecare organisation, the Registered Manager, Susan, was doing her own recruitment drive for the rest of the organisation. The day before, she had scheduled 6 interviews and only one person had turned up.
I had high hopes that our experience would be different, but by 9.50 it was not looking good. I went to the front of the Church Hall hoping to see people arriving or on the street lost and looking for the building, like a greeter at a Disney Store.
Breathe. By 10 am, we had 9 applicants. Only one had worked in home care before, and we had taken a call from the disappointed 10th person who had become unwell overnight and asked if he could come to the next one instead.
How did we persuade 9 people to show up for a 3-hour workshop when Susan could persuade only 1 out of 6 people to show up for a 30-minute interview?
In 2018, after decades of working as a consultant, I got ‘skin in the game’ and decided to set up Wellbeing Teams as a provider. I registered with the CQC, listing myself as the Registered Manager and Responsible Individual. Wellbeing Teams are small, neighbourhood, self-managed teams which support older people to live well at home and be part of their community.
I was on a steep learning curve about recruitment.
I don’t have any background or qualifications in HR or recruitment. In fact, I had only ever been on one recruitment panel before. In Wellbeing Teams, we don’t have an HR or recruitment department. This made winning the Guardian Public Service Award for HR and recruitment both a joy and kind of ironic.
Starting with a blank piece of paper
I remember sitting with my colleague Michelle on a Friday morning in my basement office with a blank piece of paper on the large pinboard, our purpose and values written in black pen at the top. We wanted to design a process that reflected our values and to find great colleagues who were a good fit for us and the work—from their perspective and ours.
We had decided to intentionally look for people from outside of health and care (ultimately, only about 10% of people we recruited had direct experience of delivering care at home). We believed that we could teach people the skills that they needed, and for people with existing experience in home care, it would be harder to unlearn traditional practices, like phoning the office to speak to the manager. We imagined that if people had experience with customers or the public in some way, their values aligned with ours, and they were curious about self-management, then this would be a good place to start. I had no idea, at that stage, how important recruitment would be to Wellbeing Teams and to my mental health.
There were many things that kept me awake at night as a new Registered Manager and business owner. Recruitment was one of them. I lay awake wondering how many people would respond to our facebook advert, whether we had left enough time between the adverts and the recruitment workshop, and if it was too bold not to use job boards.
The process that we designed, experimented with, and kept (keep!) adapting looks different from traditional HR-led recruitment in 10 ways. Before I explain these, let me clarify what I mean by values-based recruitment. When I talk about values-based recruitment, I think about it in two directions: Are we demonstrating our values through the recruitment process? and, Does our recruitment process intentionally attract people whose values align with ours?
Values-based recruitment—are you doing it consciously?
The research around values-based recruitment is compelling. It indicates that this recruitment strategy reduces employee turnover and increases employee satisfaction and performance (Edwards and Cable 2009; Hoffman and Woeher 2006), as well as increasing trust and cooperation between team members (Hurley 2006). It has become a buzz phrase in care, and now most organisations employ their own version of values-based recruitment.
My go-to source about values, and one of the National Advisors for Wellbeing Teams, is Jackie LeFevre. Jackie argues that every organisation does values-based recruitment—the question is whether they do it consciously or not.
According to Jackie, “The things you write and say, how you express them and sequence them, all matter. The shortlist criteria you use, the structure of the interview questions, what you give candidates marks for and what you don’t give them marks for – all this is driven by an underlying set of values. Whether intended or not, certain values are coming through. You are doing value-based recruitment—just not deliberately.”
Values are an expression of what matters most to a person, a group, or an organisation. Values shape our sense of the world, how things work, and what we consider ‘like’ or ‘unlike’ us.
In recruitment, two sets of values are at work: those of the recruiting organisation (or a combination of the values of the recruiting organisation and of the recruitment consultancy being used), and the values of the potential candidate.
Jackie says that great hires take place when the values of the employing organisation and the values of the individual align and resonate with one another. This is not about looking for a ‘match’; there is no such thing as the ‘right’ set of values. This is not about taking a values-shaped cookie cutter to the labour market and seeking people who fit that shape.
Consciously, values-based recruitment is about finding the words, processes, and activities which both embody the uniqueness of the employing organisation and put flesh on the bones of a candidate’s sense of what the job might be like in real life.
Jackie recently worked with an organisation which had ‘creativity’ as one of their values. They talked her through their recruitment process, and it was standard stuff. Jackie asked, “How does your creativity value show up in the recruitment process?”
The penny dropped, and they agreed that it didn’t. The value most evident in their process was efficiency; there was nothing creative visible. “How many creatives do you know that would be attracted by an efficient process?” asked Jackie.
I know that there are some excellent recruitment processes, in particular, those in which provider organisations have thought deeply about how to involve people who use the service, reflected on values, and carefully considered the experience for candidates. From when we started with our blank paper on the pinboard to now, as we support a local authority to recruit their first Wellbeing Team in Extra Care, the 10 key features that we have been using and testing differ from a more typical approach in relation to: purpose, who is involved, how recruitment takes place, and what is seen as success.
Purpose. I know this sounds obvious: the purpose of recruitment is to find the best person to fill a vacancy. The nuance here is what we mean by the best person. We think about mutual fit. We want candidates to decide if we are the right fit for them, as well as whether they are the right fit for us. Our process is designed so that candidates rule us out first. If they decide we are not a good fit for them, this saves everyone time and energy.
Who. This is the role of the HR team, usually with the local manager, though it might be outsourced. We think that everyone is a recruiter, and we pay attention to that (but not in a typical ‘bonus if you refer a friend’ way). In each team, there is someone who has a specific role related to recruitment. Co-production matters to us, whether we are recruiting a team to work with an individual or family, or a team to support people in a local neighbourhood.
How. Standard recruitment entails one or more interviews. During these, we want to see how people interact together, as teamwork is crucial, to see how people bring their whole selves to the recruitment experience, and to meet them for a few hours.
Success. A good recruitment process is quick and efficient while delivering the best candidates. Many people spend more time with their work colleagues than their family, and physical and mental health are significantly impacted by work. We invite people to invest time and energy in our recruitment process (whilst still being efficient).
Here is a summary of the 10 principles that we use in recruitment:
Finding the best candidate for the job. Providing information about the job, tasks, and responsibilities.
Mutual Fit. Approaching recruitment based on the idea of mutual fit. This means providing a range of ways to help prospective candidates get good insight into the role and us as an organisation, and decide whether we are for them first.
Recruitment based on qualifications and experience.
Value-based. Recruiting based on alignment with values and characteristics and only qualifications that are absolutely required to fulfill the role, which cannot be learned once in the role.
Recruitment design based on efficiency.
Demonstrate the organisation’s values. Recruitment design based on demonstrating the values of the organisation—“walking the walk”. We want to see recruitment as an opportunity to demonstrate our values as well as to recruit people whose values align to ours.
The HR team or another dedicated team is responsible for recruitment (and this may be outsourced).
Everyone is a recruiter. There are a range of people with recruitment as one of their roles. We have Co-production Partners (experts by experience) working alongside us in recruitment, both by participating in recruitment for the organization as a whole, and by supporting people who are recruiting directly to their own team.
Recruitment decisions made by the HR team.
Co-production. Recruitment decisions made by/with the team/manager and Co-production partners. This is clearly outlined in a decision-making agreement.
Recruitment decisions made by the HR team.
Marketing approach. Deciding who to look for based on values and then using a marketing approach based around personas to reach potential candidates.
Groups. Candidates are given opportunities to demonstrate who they are and to shine in a range of ways through workshops.
Overall candidate experience with colleagues is not usually considered in detail. Recruitment, induction, and probation are handled by different departments.
Continuity. Recruitment, induction, and probation are led by the same people offering continuity of experience.
Success is measured by efficiency of the recruitment process.
Invite people to invest time and energy. We ask people to prepare before a workshop and invest 2–3 hours with us in the workshop.
Review and learning
Recruitment process evaluated by the HR or recruitment team based on pre-established metrics.
Learn from everyone involved. Everyone involved in recruitment, including candidates (successful and unsuccessful), is involved in reviewing the process and identifying what experiment is needed to test out ideas for improvement.