Image of Naomi Freeman and David Meere
Q&A Series
10
min read

How Organisations Can Survive and Thrive the Current Hiring Crisis

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COVID-19 has brought challenges and opportunities to the health and nonprofit industries.

The pandemic has put a strain on the infrastructure and supply of health and social care workers.

There’s been an increasing demand for frontline staff for new projects. But restricted supplies of international workers and interstate restrictions has made recruitment difficult.

Challenging times like these have pushed organisations to think outside the box. Two organisations, Life without Barriers and APM have had great success hiring during this difficult time.

In a recent webinar co-hosted with PageUp, we spoke to HR leaders, Naomi Freeman from APM, David Meere from Life Without Barriers, about the recruitment strategies they’re using during this time. In this blog, we summarise key takeaways from the webinar.

The challenges and opportunities presented during COVID-19

Both Life Without Barriers and APM experienced challenges and opportunities as a result of COVID-19.

The team at Life Without Barriers have been able to consistently recruit despite talent shortages. In the past two years, 58,015 people applied to work with the nonprofit and 3,468 people accepted positions with the organisation. About 99% of offers made by Life Without Barriers have been accepted which is an enviable conversion rate.

Despite this success, the organisation did experience challenges during the pandemic. Faced with an oversupply of talent in some areas, and shortages in others, the team redeployed 700 people within the organisation. This was hard work but ensured nobody lost their jobs and that the organisation received talent where it was most needed.

At APM, over 700 job offers have been accepted in the last 18 months. To achieve this success, the team had to get very creative and think up new recruitment strategies.

Devising new ways of working was challenging but it also brought a lot of opportunity. The team took the time to stop and think about what they were trying to achieve. The outcome of this introspection led to the team creating a more digitised recruitment process and new communication strategies.

The marketing team at APM also conducted research to find out what candidates are looking for in current and future roles. It was revealed that candidates want better work-life balance and more meaningful work. The APM recruitment team listened to this feedback and are working on ways to ensure APM meets these growing candidate needs.

Tips for hiring health and social care workers by drawing on an organisation’s purpose

Candidates want their work to have more meaning which is great news for health and social care recruiters. A key way you can recruit candidates is by effectively communicating your organisation’s purpose.

David has a three tips for communicating purpose to candidates: 

  1. Start by explaining your organisation’s overarching mission. For Life Without Barriers it’s to partner with people and change their lives for the better. 
  2. Tell candidates how this mission translates into their day-to-day role. 
  3. Use this time as an opportunity to assess whether candidates align with your organisation’s values. 

David noted during the webinar that you don’t need to be a nonprofit or health organisation to have a strong purpose. Every company serves a function in society. It’s a recruiter's job to connect with people and convey a company’s purpose in an authentic way.

Naomi and her team follow a similar process at APM. The organisation’s mission to enable better lives is made clear during the recruitment process. Each candidate is then given a full understanding of how their role stacks up to the bigger picture. Naomi and the team also make it clear that APM has a culture where success is celebrated each day. Everyone at APM celebrates having a role that lets people give back and enable a better life for an individual, their family and friends. 

How to leverage relationships both inside and outside your organisation for best results

During times of rapid recruiting it’s important to leverage relationships with internal and external partners. Naomi and David achieved this in a few ways. 

Naomi and her team first took stock of the entire APM employment services division. They then set up a process to educate and share knowledge with hiring leaders. At APM, hiring leaders have the final say on recruitment decisions and so it’s important that they align closely with the talent acquisition team. To help keep this alignment strong, APM partnered with an external agency to set up hiring leader training programs. These programs helped leaders understand how COVID-19 was changing the hiring landscape and how they could work with talent acquisition teams to ensure the best results. The training is ongoing and ensures hiring leaders and talent acquisition teams maintain a strong relationship. 

A test for assessing your partnerships

According to David, it’s very important to leverage help from external partners. Recruiters can’t be experts on every topic within talent acquisition, it’s just not possible. By creating partnerships with providers you respect, you can create a relationship where you get the support, advice and ideas you need to improve the way you work.

David has an exercise for assessing the strength of your partnerships with outside vendors.

Write down the names of your three most important talent partners. Now, imagine it’s 4.45pm on a Friday and they see you ringing them. What’s their reaction?

  1. I don't have time for this person. 
  2. I am answering this call knowing there’s a challenge I need to deal with.
  3. How are you? How can I help you today?

If you have a positive working relationship with your partners the answer should be three. If that’s not the case, then it’s likely you need to audit these relationships and identify ways you can nurture them for better results. 

It’s important to remember, we should advocate for our partners as well. David often acts as a reference for the partners he and his team work with. This builds trust and a by-product is that he and his team get the support they need when they need it.

How to attract candidates in a tight talent market

Both David and Naomi are aware that their organisation's recruitment processes may be a candidate’s first exposure to the entire industry. This carries a large responsibility. You don’t want to be responsible for talent being turned off of an entire sector! Here are their top tips for attracting candidates. 

Make candidate experience a priority by using technology

For the teams at Life Without Barriers and APM, the first step to attracting talent is to create a recruitment experience that puts people first. Both teams have digitised their processes so recruiters have more time to actually connect with people during the hiring process. Technology takes care of manual admin so recruiters take care of the candidates in front of them.

During the webinar, David stressed that to connect with a candidate one needs to understand the whole person and how work will fit into their lives and not the other way around. The world is changing and people are looking at work from a holistic perspective. Recruiters need to be considerate of that and try to understand the whole person.

To give recruiters time to connect with candidates, talent acquisition teams should get their tech stack sorted. By automating manual tasks recruiters have more time to properly engage with candidates.

David advises recruiters without the right resources to ask senior leadership about their top recruiting priorities. If these recruiting priorities do not align with the resources provided then a review should take place. Technology partners are usually very good at helping articulate ROI and so, if needed, ask them for resources to help you make a business case.

Take advantage of transferable skills

Another way to attract talent is to look for transferable skills. Naomi and the team at APM realised people working in industries like travel, retail and hospitality had skills that would see them thrive at a place like APM. Armed with this knowledge, they set up campaigns to attract these people and introduce them to the world of employment services. Many of the candidates they attract have never been exposed to the employment services industry and are inspired by the great work they can do in the sector. 
The team at Life Without Barriers looked internally for transferable skills. David and the team deployed 700 people to successfully fill talent gaps in the organisation. Internal recruiting has become more popular since COVID-19 and has proved successful for organisation’s like Life Without Barriers. 

Review your Employer Value Proposition

The world is changing and Employer Value Propositions (EVP) should shift as a result. According to Naomi, reviewing APM's employer value proposition was an important step to attracting new talent. Research conducted by the marketing team revealed candidates want more purpose and better work life balance. Candidates also want to find the information they need quickly. As a result of these insights, the APM team revamped their website and changed their EVP to suit evolving candidate expectations.

Take advantage of peer-to-peer advocacy

Referral programs have always been a successful tool for recruiters. The teams and APM and Life Without Barriers have doubled down on this tried and true talent acquisition method. 

At AMP, the team revamped their process by making it easier than ever to refer people. About 14% of all new hires have now come as a result of this new and improved referral program!

David and the team at Life Without Barriers, followed a similar approach. They doubled down on peer-to-peer advocacy by bringing the “hustle” back into recruiting. The team follows up on every referral. They hit the phones when needed and are always looking to get the most out of every referral opportunity. Many new hires have now joined Life Without Barriers thanks to positive peer-to-peer advocacy. 


Looking at the positives

COVID-19 has been a stressful time but it’s also been a time of opportunity. Both Naomi and David agree that maintaining a positive mindset is crucial for morale. Taking the time to reflect on the challenges and successes over the last 18 months is a great way to start identifying the bright side. Sharing wins and learnings with the wider industry is also important for maintaining a positive culture in the sector overall. It helps everyone continue to conduct life-changing work and continue to persevere during challenging times.

If you've enjoyed reading this blog we recommend giving the webinar a listen. A lot of great information was shared and we guarantee you will gain even more insights. You can listen to the recording here.

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