Our research into the recruitment practices in the NHS highlights opportunities and best practice for creating an inclusive recruitment experience
In a recent interactive webinar hosted by SJ Leatherdale and Rebecca Brandwood from Odgers Interim Healthcare, Sue Johnson, Managing Partner, Inclusion & Diversity Consulting Practice, used our recruitment process data to explain how healthcare organisations can fine-tune inclusive hiring.
Odgers have developed an Inclusive Recruitment Diagnostic (IRD) tool to assess the maturity level of an organisation’s recruitment and onboarding processes. It examines the six key steps from role definition through to offer and onboarding, allowing organisations to transform their recruitment and onboarding process to deliver a truly inclusive candidate experience, and begins with an in-depth self-assessment survey that identifies an organisation’s maturity in this area.
To date, over 100 clients across a wide range of sectors have used IRD. Collectively, this represents more than 1.5 million employees, providing a strong dataset for comparison and benchmarking. With that in mind, we looked at how a group of nine NHS organisations including acute, community and mental health providers and ICBs that used IRD shaped up when benchmarked against cross-industry norms.
But before we get on to the findings, a bit more context is needed. The ‘big leave’ which made headlines during the pandemic continues, with research finding that 20% of employees think it likely they will quit their job in the next 12 months. Recruitment is therefore a prominent issue and it can be an expensive process if you don’t get it right. One study famously found that hiring the wrong person can cost three times their salary for the role in terms of lost client engagement, damage to team morale, potential loss of business and then the rehiring process. On a more positive note, REC research finds that getting people into the right jobs increases UK productivity by £7.7bn each year.
We set up a session focused on the NHS because we know it faces a workforce crisis. Investment in I&D will be a key factor in the delivery and success of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan and our research into the recruitment practices across the NHS allows organisations to benchmark where they are today and identity best practices to make recruitment processes more inclusive and diverse.
Our cross-industry data shows responsibility for I&D rests with the CEO in only around 1% of organisations. Interestingly, those organisations score 5% higher than average. More typically however, responsibility tends to lie with either the HR leader, I&D leader or is shared between roles, and this was mirrored in healthcare, with HR, I&D and ‘shared role’ each having responsibility in one third of the nine organisations.
According to the baseline data, 59% of organisations have an inclusive recruitment policy, whereas NHS scores better with 67%. None of the NHS organisations we assessed offer financial incentives connected to representation.
The NHS also outperformed the baseline regarding training line managers on inclusive recruitment practises (67% versus 52%) and scored higher still (over 75%) on tracking diversity of candidates – placing it alongside government as one of the best sectors. It is worth noting the importance of training line managers as those organisations that do so achieve an assessment score that is at least 12% higher, while tracking diversity increases scores by 7%.
Yet even though healthcare is clearly doing the right things in terms of having a strategy, training line managers and tracking diversity, overall our data found the sector underperformed the baseline by around 15%. And every time there was a score of under 1.6, which represents entry level maturity, it was 2.5 times more likely to be a healthcare provider than the broader dataset.
Why is that?
Healthcare lagged the most in the final two segments of the recruitment process: Decision and Offer & Onboard. Here more work may be necessary around who makes the hiring decision, the speed at which it happens and, once a candidate has been appointed, making sure sufficient attention is given to ensuring they feel included during the induction process so that they conclude the organisation is ‘for me’. Failure to do so may cause retention problems.
Other steps that can be taken include making use of the excellent NHS inclusive language guidance document and considering using AI to debias job ads. The aim with the latter is to achieve gender neutral language. There are two types of language – agentic and communal. The former is more assertive and masculine-coded, whereas communal is focused on warmth, empathy and consensus. Research has found that many women are discouraged from applying for jobs advertised using agentic language, whereas men are not put off by communal language. Communal is therefore the way to appeal to the broadest array of candidates.
With respect to the use of images, it is important to consider who may be missing from a shot and who is shown in the middle of the picture because people assume that the person at the centre of the image is likely the leader. And wherever possible, use images of your employees as this is authentic and drives engagement. It can also be advantageous to allow employee resource or allyship groups to review website and job ad content ahead of publication to determine what they find attractive, or indeed off-putting.
Defining how the hiring decision is made is also important. Consider inviting members of the potential employee’s team to meet them and invite their structured feedback. Look to the future, too. Which candidate matches your organisation’s requirements not only today but over your strategic planning horizon?
Once an appointment is made, onboarding can be a make-or-break experience. Communicate to the new starter in advance of their start date the agenda for their first days in the role and ensure all employee touchpoints like security, staff parking and IT are informed and ready so that newcomers feel welcome and empowered to perform from day one.
In your induction programme, ensure that all new starters are made aware of any initiatives to promote I&D, like allyship groups and mentoring opportunities. Finally, buddy schemes can help newcomers get to grips with ‘unwritten rules’ and organisational nuances.
NHS organisations are strong on I&D in several areas, particularly around tracking, and communicating with and training line managers. Yet our research indicates that there are opportunities for the NHS to create a more inclusive process across all stages of the recruitment journey to help attract and retain talent.
If you would like to learn more about the IRD, please contact Sue Johnson.