Let’s Be Clear: Honest Role Descriptions That Attract People Who Align with Values

“Is this about personal care?” she asked in a slightly incredulous tone.
We were doing our first values-based recruitment workshop, and we had got to the stage where the candidates had an opportunity to ask me questions—the reverse interview part.
I felt a stab of anxiety in my stomach. 
“How could she not know this?” I asked myself.
Then, someone else added weight to her confusion: “Is this like a carer’s job? I thought it was about wellbeing?” they asked.
There is something about my personality—and my team can confirm this—that when something seems clear in my mind, I assume it is the same for everyone. I am working on this, but I had unwittingly extended it to our values-based recruitment process.
I was so intent on us not being a traditional care organisation, and so focussed on wellbeing, community, and self-management, that I had not been clear enough. I hadn’t communicated that, yes, as well as focussing on wellbeing, our carers would also be supporting someone to get up in the morning, take medication if necessary, and go about daily tasks like meals. This was not transparent in our information or process. I had done well at describing the kind of person we were looking for—the values alignment bit—but poorly at actually describing the role. Yes, it was a ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ situation. What did I need to do differently? 
 
An accurate role description is vital
 
As I write this, it seems self-evident, but I had missed it. The experience in the recruitment workshop began a process of looking deeply at both how we describe the role and how we describe who we are looking for. 
We think differently from other organisations about power within recruitment: we think that decision-making is two-way and is about ‘fit’, rather than ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ people. Therefore, we wanted to actively make sure we were providing great information about the role and about ourselves. Over the last four years, we have tried and tested a range of ways of helping people have insight into the role and how the team works, and we have learned from what has worked well and times when people have been unclear. It starts with the role description.
 
How we give people great information before they apply
 
Usually, when applying for a job, there is a job description and a link to the website. Instead of whether a candidate is the best person for the job, I think of recruitment as a mutual question of fit. We want to give people as much information about us and the role as possible, so that they can decide if we are a fit for them as well as us considering whether they are a fit for us. We now use a range of techniques to help candidates learn as much about the role—and us—as possible, and I introduce the six ways that we do this in the next blog. The lessons learned from that first recruitment workshop made me realise how hard we needed to work on that. 
 
Role Description
 
Here is an excerpt from our role description for Wellbeing Workers
Wellbeing Teams do whatever it takes to support people to live well at home and be part of their community. We challenge the loneliness, boredom, and helplessness that many older people experience, and support people to feel connected, contribute, be active, and have purpose, their own way. Wellbeing Workers use their head, heart, and hands to support people and bring our values to life.
Our values are: Compassion, Responsibility, Collaboration, Curiosity, Creativity and Flourishing.
What would you do as a Wellbeing Worker?
  1. Develop great relationships with people using our services and colleagues, treating everyone with respect, kindness, and generosity.
  2. Provide practical support to help people live well at home in the way that the person wants. This will include help with personal care (for example, getting in and out of bed, washing, bathing, dressing), providing meals, support with taking medication, looking after the home, and getting out and about. Whatever the person needs, when they need it, in the way they want it. 
  3. Be part of a self-managed team. This means working together, taking different roles, and creatively solving problems together. You will provide support and cover for each other, give each other feedback, and celebrate successes as well. You will have a Buddy, and you are supported by a coach (the Wellbeing Leader), too.
  1. Manage your time well, and use it in the best way to support people to achieve their outcomes. You have the autonomy and authority to organise your time to do this with your team, the team sets their own rotas, with support if you need it.
  2. Bring your whole self to work—your talents, interests, and passions. We will support you to pay attention to your wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of your team and the people you support.
  3. Work closely with the person’s family, friends, and Community Circles as well as any colleagues from health and social care, to make sure that our work is coordinated and effective.
  4. Keep all information up-to-date—the people you support’s and your team’s.
  5. Provide safe, person-centred, compassionate care and work within the
    team agreements and how Wellbeing Teams work. These are all described in
    your handbook.
  6. Be respectful of people’s homes, possessions, and any equipment.
  7. Keep learning and developing individually and as a team so we can keep
    improving how we work and flourish together.
How does this role description attract people who are aligned with our values?
 
We have embedded our values, and what they mean in practice, throughout the role description. Here is a summary:
 
Compassion – We start with relationships. It is the first thing that we mention, and we specify what we mean by great relationships—respect, kindness, and generosity. These are all values that align with compassion. Self-compassion is part of our value of compassion, and we explicitly talk about paying attention to your wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of the people you support and the team.
 
Responsibility – We stress this in several places: talking about the candidate managing their time well, making sure work is coordinated and effective, continually learning, and talking about authority and autonomy in time management. We hope that candidates who prefer a manager telling them what to do, rather than aligning with our value of responsibility, would not be interested in this role.
 
Collaboration – The most important collaboration is with the person we are supporting. We stress the importance of this in several places, starting with, “Whatever the person needs, when they need it, in the way they want it”. We explicitly talk about working closely with the person’s family, friends, and service workers, and mention that the number and time of the visits are decided with the person.
 
Curiosity – We talk about continuously learning and developing to improve how we work. 
 
Creativity – We specifically talk about creatively solving problems. The role includes inviting candidates to bring their whole self to work, including their hobbies and interests—we want to hear about how the candidate expresses creativity in their life.
 
Flourishing – We are explicit about wellbeing and about the fact that our intention is to support candidates to pay attention to their own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of their team and the people they support.
 
Checking that people have understood what the role involves
 
After our first experience of the value-based workshop, we’ve made sure that we do not leave it until the workshop to check that people have fully understood what the role is. In the first conversation we have with people, we give them an opportunity to ask someone who is doing the role or who has done it what it is actually like. We go as far as checking,
“Do you know this role includes elements of personal care? How do you feel about that?”
 
A golden thread
 
I wonder how different the first recruitment workshop would have been if we had done that. Although it was mortifying at the time, it was such a powerful lesson for me. In my life in general, I need to check that I have actually communicated what I think I have. I am still working on that. I swung from my obsession with values to re-balancing this with the factual information that people need, clearly described, and checking with people that they have understood.
Spending time developing clear, specific, and sufficiently detailed role descriptions has been significant for us in developing our values-based recruitment. It is the start of a golden thread from understanding the role, to demonstrating that people have the values and competences to deliver the role during the recruitment workshop, through to induction, where we support new team members to fully deliver each aspect of the role description. It ends with signing people off as competent in each element of the role at the end of probation. For most people, the job description is a part of recruitment, but it also ends there and then is never seen or mentioned again. For us, it is the beginning of a journey from recruitment to the end of probation.
 
Reflections Dan Minchin, CEO at Chorus
What are my reflections?
Helen’s blog reminds us of the kindness and thoughtfulness we should bring to the process by which we welcome a person into our organisations. 
 
How crazy is it that recruitment is so often impersonal and transactional? Then we wonder why we spend so much time and money on it – and still don’t get a good fit.
 
It’s the classic vicious cycle of wasted effort, high turnover, rinse and repeat. 
 
Community and wellbeing services depend entirely on people and the relationships between them. We should, of course, recruit in a way which not only picks the right people, but begins the cultural engagement journey from the very first point of contact.

What does this mean for my organisation/ sector?
At Chorus, we aspire to create an organisation where people can be their best. Where localised teams don’t merely deliver the basic services for which we are funded, but also interweave with neighbourhoods and communities. We are still early in our journey, and it is fair to say we have plenty of work to do around our approach to recruitment. This blog is a valuable nudge in the right direction.

 

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