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UnitingCare: Volume Recruitment in a Talent Shortage

UnitingCare is Queensland's largest not-for-profit in multiple industries including healthcare, aged care, retail, hospitality and corporate services.

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We've got so many other things besides recruitment that we're doing so being able to have that peace of mind that in 60 seconds, you can add that candidate’s details in and you know the reference is taken care of. It's really helpful.


Average turnaround time for completed references


References completed outside regular business hours


References returned completed

When you need to hire quickly, lengthy processes get in the way of securing top talent. 

The Aged Care and Health and Hospital industries have been particularly hard hit in recent times due to the pandemic. Essential industries like these are vital during times of crisis taking care of sick and vulnerable people. 

During crisis conditions such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of sick and vulnerable publics rises significantly, meaning an increased need for more staff to support these people. However, the crisis conditions needing health and aged care staff to remain ‘always on’ placed a massive strain on these vital and valuable workers causing many to move on from their current roles. 

The need for more staff, coupled with current staff leaving the industry creates significant challenges for both the health and recruitment industries. 

Simultaneously, the lack of migration due to closed borders has meant international talent isn’t coming into Australia. Competition for talent is hot and Xref customers tell us that in aged care and health if a candidate comes on your radar and isn’t contacted within the hour, chances are they’ll be hired by someone else as the day ends. 

But volume recruitment in a talent shortage market doesn’t have to be impossible. We spoke with Rachel Hutchcroft at UnitingCare about how they overcome hiring hurdles as an essential business in a talent-short market. 

UnitingCare is Queensland's largest not-for-profit and Queensland's second largest employer after the Queensland Government. UnitingCare employs 17,500 staff across Queensland and keeps 8,500 volunteers on the books.

Please share some details about hiring for UnitingCare 

UnitingCare’s workforce is so diverse - we are across multiple sectors including healthcare, aged care, retail, hospitality and corporate services. It can be split into four major groups - Blue Care, Hospitals, Family and Disability Services (FaDS) and Corporate Services.

UnitingCare’s biggest arm is Blue Care which is in the aged care sector, supporting both residential and community aged care support. Our FaDS sector is across family, child and disability services, and we look after Lifeline from a state-based level - both Lifeline crisis support and Lifeline retail. 

We also have four hospitals - The Wesley Hospital in Auchenflower, St. Andrews War Memorial Hospital in Spring Hill, Buderim Private Hospital on the Sunshine Coast, and St. Stephen's in Hervey Bay.

I manage talent acquisition and recruitment across our Corporate Services and I lead a recruitment team of four currently. 

Last July, we moved from a de-centralised, transactional recruitment team of three and transformed into a centralised, end-to-end talent acquisition function of 25. In our first full 12 months of being established, we have recruited over 5,300 new starters.

What style of recruitment do you undertake? Are you consistently hiring or do you prefer to bulk hire?

Given that a number of our services are 24/7, we are constantly hiring. I think everyone would like to say they are recruiting strategically, but given the way the market is and how dramatically it shifted, it’s becoming harder and harder to pool and pipeline talent.

Across the team, we can be working on around 2000 vacancies at any given time, with a mix of bulk hires and individual roles. Our Hospitals team recruit seasonally for Graduate Nurses twice a year, and they have an extremely successful graduate program that runs across the four hospitals.

What hiring challenges is the market raising for UnitingCare?

The challenges I see across Corporate Services are definitely different to my colleagues working in Health, Aged Care and Community Services. 

The fight for talent is on, and the Brisbane market is moving really quickly. This isn’t just unique to Brisbane I’m sure. Across all of the major cities, candidates are moving quickly and for significantly more money.

Xref understands that due to shortages, good talent is being hired really fast and it’s important for recruiters like Rachel to keep up. Rachel identified that one challenge she and the recruitment team at UnitingCare face is the need for constant communication between hiring managers and candidates to ensure good talent opportunities aren’t missed. 

In our interview Rachel elaborated, “Reconfirming salaries consistently throughout the recruitment process and making offers as quickly as possible is really important for our Corporate Services.”

“My colleagues have different challenges that are not unique to UnitingCare but impact the Aged Care, Health and Community Services industry as a whole. "

"There are extreme talent shortages that can only be solved with international hires, particularly Registered Nurses, Enrolled Nurses, and Personal Carers.”

What strategies are you putting in place to overcome some of these challenges? 

We can only focus on what we can control, so speed to market and speed to offer is huge in a high-volume environment. Xref has a huge part to play in speeding up our process - having a quick turnaround time on references makes such a difference. I actually sent through a reference request last night, which were both completed overnight so I’m now able to offer my candidate this morning!

Our Corporate Services team is currently focused on driving our Employee Value Proposition (EVP) externally, and we’re getting a little bit more creative in how we're getting our candidates. 

In an incredibly challenging and competitive employment market, the speed and efficiency of our process is critical. Xref has played a huge role in reducing our time to fill and making our recruitment process much more efficient.

The Talent Acquisition team have been utilising Xref’s People Search function. With the high number of vacancies we are currently looking to fill, having talent at our fingertips has been invaluable.

How did you hire before Xref?

Interestingly enough, Xref was actually implemented before my time here, but only in our Blue Care team who recruit in high volume. So when I first joined, I was doing references the old-school way. 

Since then, we have implemented Xref across our Hospitals, Corporate and Family and Disability Services and we haven't looked back!

Previously, to collect a reference it would take anywhere between 24 hours to three or four days. I do genuinely say to my leader, “if you took Xref from me, I would find another way to do references because I just cannot go back to doing it the old-school way!”

The frustration when I refer to the ‘old school method’, is trying to catch that reference or them trying to catch you. Everyone is busy! As a Recruiter, you're naturally hard to catch as well. I'm constantly attached to my phone, I'm always in meetings. So it's just that cat and mouse game that can be really frustrating, especially when you're looking to get a candidate over the line. The convenience of Xref just makes sense. 

Xref is so convenient for referees too. Using Xref means I’m not trying to catch them during a busy day at work.  They can do it once they finish work, in their own time, on their phone or their laptop and out of hours. That time pressure is taken away.

In addition to speed, what are some of the benefits that you experience in using Xref?

Given the industries we work across, we are heavily regulated and compliance-driven. So being able to add in preliminary compliance questions such as working rights and criminal history is, for example, really helpful. We still have to get the documentation, of course. But it's really easy to quickly refer to when we're downloading the reference. 

UnitingCare provides services to vulnerable groups within the community so protecting these groups is our priority. Xref provides the additional security and peace of mind that references are legitimate and sound hiring decisions are being made.

Candidate experience is so important -Xref also enhances the experience our candidates have during the recruitment process.

Please describe the impact Xref has made on you and UnitingCare

I love Xref. I'm a huge advocate and I do genuinely promote it whenever I network. 

When you're working in an organisation as large as ours, and having the pressures on us that we currently do, just having the ability to quickly jump into our candidate's details and know that references and pre-employment checks have been taken care of- Xref is a game changer.

We've got so many other things besides recruitment that we're doing so being able to have that peace of mind that in 60 seconds, you can add that candidate’s details in and you know the reference is taken care of. It's really helpful.

In an ever-changing recruitment environment, having a system that we can not only leverage to speed up our recruitment process, but the fact that we can also utilise it as a candidate search tool is really valuable. We've got a need for high volume recruitment and when you actually think of the hours that that would take for our Advisors to catch two references per placement [for the 2000 we need to hire] it just makes sense.

Closing Remarks

In a tough labour market, where skills shortages are rampant and high-quality hires are hard to come by, organisations like UnitingCare need streamlined hiring processes to secure top talent quickly. 

Using tech like Xref helps with reducing time to hire. If needed, Xref provides the option to complete bulk reference checks. For organisations like UnitingCare, this positively impacts a high-volume recruitment process.

As the crisis elements of the COVID-19 pandemic subside, the strain and pressure on essential industries like healthcare and aged care will ease. With migration back on the cards, the hunt for global talent is on and UnitingCare’s international recruitment strategy will help fulfil their volume hiring needs.

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