Who Makes Decisions in the Recruitment Process? Co-Production in Recruitment

In 2019, we were delighted to win the Guardian Public Services Award for Recruitment and HR. I bet we are the only recipient of this award to where there is no HR department or anyone with that role title. In Wellbeing Teams, recruitment is done by a team, but it is a very different kind of team; we believe that the people who are directly impacted by the decision to recruit someone should be the people making the decisions. Ideally, the decision-makers should be the person who will be supported by the successful candidate and the team who they will be working alongside. 
My mum receives home care three times a day. She feels like she is at the mercy of whoever turns up, and feels fortunate when it is a familiar face, since the turnover of staff is so high. I know that being empowered to choose her team of carers would significantly impact her sense of autonomy. And yet, this is something that we struggled with in Wellbeing Teams.
There are three ways that we have tried to get decision-making as close as possible to people who receive support:
  • We support individuals to recruit their personal assistants.
  • We work alongside a Co-production Partner when we are recruiting teams to support a large number of people.
  • We support people to choose their team from existing team members.
People who are recruiting their own personal assistants can have the most control over the process.
Supporting people and families to recruit personal assistants
If you need support with daily living, deciding who to employ is a decision that has a significant impact on the quality of your life. There are many decision-points on the path to deciding who to employ. When we are supporting someone to employ people to support them, we go through these to agree on how each decision will be made. This ranges from how much personal information to share in an advert through to how we decide who to offer the job to. 
Joe and Donna asked us to help them recruit two personal assistants to support their adult son, Peter. Peter is twenty-eight, tall, and slender, and loves cars and being outside. He lives at home in an adapted extension that accommodates his wheelchair. The family live in an affluent part of Manchester, and were worn down from trying to work with different organisations to provide support to Peter in their home. 
Peter’s severe learning disabilities means he needs support in most areas of his life. This has led to fifteen different people coming through their door in the space of two months. Fifteen different people who Donna worried did not know Peter well enough to provide the specific support he needed, and who she felt like she needed to induct to become ‘Peter-experts’. Exhausted with this and feeling let down when they were asked by the provider to step in—again—to cover for someone who was off sick, the family decided to try something different and recruit people themselves. 
We started by explaining our recruitment process and looking at how Peter, Joe, and Donna wanted to be at the centre of the process. We went through our decision-making agreement to ensure that we had a clear, shared understanding of the role that the family wanted to take and what they expected from us. Donna started from the position that to be in control of the process meant that she had to be involved in every single decision. Through working together, we learned that some decisions felt more important than others in giving her a sense of control. 
Three months later, when we had successfully recruited two personal assistants for Peter, I asked Donna about the process and anything we could have done differently. We talked about how important it had been to be absolutely clear about the decisions that needed to be made and how the family would make them or when we would make them together. Donna said, “I think if I did this again, I would let you get on with more of it!” 
Part of the recruitment process involves having conversations with potential applicants before we invite them to the recruitment workshop. Donna wanted to be involved in those calls, so this was shared between three people: Donna and two Wellbeing Teams employees. This took about five hours of Donna’s time. She said that next time, she would trust us to do more of this so it took less of her time, but she could still feel confident in the family’s role as decision-makers within the process.
Recruitment when someone communicates without speech
Jennie, like Peter, does not communicate with words. When we are supporting someone with significant disabilities to be part of their recruitment process, we have to think creatively together.
Jennie, her mum, and circle of support were working with a provider to recruit a team to support Jennie in her flat. Jennie is an artist and makes cards. Part of the recruitment process included taking part in an art session with Jennie. It was hard to tell from Jennie’s behaviour whether there were some people that she particularly warmed to, but the process was a way of demonstrating how Jennie and her needs were central, and applicants needed to be up for this and pay attention to what matters to Jennie, like her art. We later added reflections on this session to candidates’ interview questions.
What does our decision-making agreement look like?
Here is an example of a decision-making agreement we use when we are supporting people to recruit their own assistants or team:
Person’s involvement 
Involvement of others 
When and where decision is made 
How the final decision is made 
Developing Personalised Person Spec (‘Could this be you’)
Role Description
What to include in the role description, personalised to the person 
What to include in ‘Could this be you?’
Person signs off final version before we begin advertising 
Contents of Application Pack 
What information to include in the ‘about you’ section.
Whether to share a one-page profile 
Whether to share a ‘week in the life’ of the person
Whether to include a personal letter to potential team members (eg Dear potential team member, here are some things I would like you to know…)
Other One Page Profiles of anyone else who will be involved in recruitment 
Project Plan/Timescales 
Co-developing the overall timescale 
Date and times of the recruitment workshop
Where to hold the recruitment workshop
Recruitment Campaign—FB Adverts
Person (how family if appropriate) decide how much personal information to share 
On FB/Indeed .
Whether to use personal or stock photographs
Person decides on how much personal info is used 
Workshop Attendance
Who else to involve in the workshop
Making an Offer
Person decides 
We provide advice based on our evaluation of candidates
Person subject to references & DBS 
Working with Co-production Partners when recruiting a team to support many people.
Sometimes, people cannot recruit their own team. This is the case in home care and other services when a team supports a large number of people.
When Wellbeing Teams were supporting people living at home on a home care contract with the council, we had to think about involving people in recruitment in a different way. 
We asked three questions: 
  • How can we include someone with experience in home care while choosing the first teams?
  • How can we involve the people we support in recruitment?
  • How can people choose their own team from an existing team?
A Co-production Partner is someone who has expertise through their experience. For us, that meant someone with experience of home care. When we talked to the commissioner in Wigan about how we wanted to work with a Co-production Partner, she immediately suggested Helen Ratcliffe. 
Helen’s husband, who had died earlier that year, had been supported by a home care organisation, and Helen had already helped the council by providing a carer’s perspective to several working groups. I got in contact with Helen and asked if she would join us to help recruit the first team.
When I arrived at the community hall in Wigan on a windy day in November, Helen was already there. She introduced herself to me, and twenty minutes later I was wiping tears from my eyes. 
Helen is a very private person, but she did share that her husband had died in July, and she wanted to give something back. My sister had died two months earlier, and I was still at the stage where I found it difficult to talk about it without a few tears. We talked about our shared grief and our shared determination around home care, and then got on with the job of getting the room ready for our first recruits for the roles of Community Connector and Practice Coach. 
We asked Helen to continue working with us to recruit the first Wellbeing Teams, and as we started to support people, we invited people who used the service to join Helen on our recruitment team. We also wanted to get as close as we could to the goal of people supported by Wellbeing Teams choosing their own team from people who we had recruited. In home care, this was much much harder than I imagined.
Working with Co-production Partners
Co-production Partners are experts through their experience. Helen knew what it was like to have carers come through her door three times a day to support her late husband. She had more experience than we did of what this felt like, what made it a great experience, and what was difficult. Helen’s experience and perspective was invaluable in informing how we approached recruitment, and Helen was an equal decision-maker with me—the Wellbeing Leader—both as we recruited our first teams and later through all our recruitment workshops.
Every recruitment has a recruitment team which includes: the Wellbeing Leader (or me); the Recruitment Coordinator, often alongside another team member; and a Co-production Partner (Helen) or the person being supported. Everyone introduces themselves at the beginning of the workshop, takes notes on each candidate, and is part of the decision-making at the end. When we recruited for Wellbeing Workers, our first question was always to Helen and the person we supported: “Would you feel comfortable with them in your home?” Then, we talked about each candidate, reviewed their scores and comments, and checked the personality test as we made our decisions. 
Involving people who use the service in recruitment
There is a second way that we involve people who we support: after the recruitment workshop, we invite applicants to do a recruitment visit with an experienced team member and someone we support who is keen to help us with our recruitment. Both the person being supported and the team member contribute their views before a final decision is reached on whether to offer the person a role.
People choosing their own team: is it possible?
I had very high hopes for us being able to do this. I imagined that we would have up to six team members supporting someone new, and then, at their 6-week review, they would choose from these six team members who they wanted on their team of four. However, we could not pay people for whole shifts, honour the times that people wanted their support, and generate that amount of flexibility in the schedule to be able to achieve this. 
We could have created the flexibility we needed if we had been paying people on zero-hour contracts, but we consciously traded security for the team members (salary and full shifts) at the expense of less choice for the people we served. Of course, someone we supported told us that they did not want someone on their team, we made that happen, but that was nowhere near as far as we wanted to go.
I am frustrated that in the context of home care and the particular challenges there, it is not possible for us to enable people to have a say in their team. We are still learning how to improve at getting decision-making as close to the person as possible. We recently refined our process for recruiting with and for individuals with our national Co-production Partner, Clenton. Clenton has a small team of personal assistants. We went through each stage of the process with him so that Clenton could experience it and together we could find opportunities to improve it. This has resulted in us re-focussing on culture and values in how we describe the role and ‘Could this be you?’
Mary Reed
CEO, Wilts CIL for Independent Living
My priority is to recruit people I can connect with, so it’s essential that I am in control of the recruitment process.  Our PA register supports this approach; enabling people to match profiles and connect on a human level Abbie Lawrence – PA Support Worker Wilts Centre for Independent Living
People are often overwhelmed by recruitment process but know that they want someone with the right personality and attitude in their lives.  Our aim is to put them in control, by giving them the tools, skills, and knowledge and making the process simple and easy to navigate. Louise Maddox Direct payment Manager, Wilts Centre for Independent Living
Social care, but not as we know it! This blog shows the importance of putting people in control of recruiting their care: the right fit isn’t about experience or qualifications, it’s about human connection.  Mary Reed, CEO, Wilts CIL for Independent Living
Photos: Mary, Louise, Abbie
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