people looking at a computer screen

Attracting, recruiting and retaining the best talent

By Sarah Broad 5 June 2019 5 minute read

Recruitment in general and diversity, equality and inclusion especially, are inherently subjective and often emotive.

But it is vital to do right as, like a lot of charities, NPC’s success is dependent on its less than 50 staff.  To achieve our mission we need to attract, recruit and retain smart, agile individuals. People who are passionate about improving the impact of the sector by working with a wide range of stakeholders on complex issues to help improve people’s lives and make communities stronger.

We’re not perfect, but in the last year we have reviewed and refreshed our approach to recruitment with the dual aim of reducing the time and cost to recruit and improving our diversity, equality and inclusion.

Setting the direction and making decisions has, at times, been uncertain and uncomfortable. But we hope that by sharing some of the early learnings from our own experience—the good, the bad and the indifferent—we can inspire and help others grappling with the same challenges.

Break recruitment down into manageable chunks

Early into our project we recognised that ‘reduce the time and cost to recruit’ and ‘improve diversity, equality and inclusion’ were big goals. In fact, each topic was so massive it was hard to know where to start. So, we decided to break down the project into four workstreams, inevitably inter-related, each with their own mini-team, objectives and timetable.

  • Employer brand – how do we present ourselves to potential candidates?
  • Recruitment channels – how do we reach the widest possible pool of talent in a time and cost-effective way?
  • Application and selection – how do we ensure that our processes are accessible, streamlined and positive for all?
  • Onboarding and induction – how do we ensure that successful candidates have a warm and engaging experience between job offer and start date and into their first weeks?

Use readily available data to direct efforts

Even with our four workstreams there was a real risk that we would try to tackle everything at once and end up achieving very little. But we found readily available data which helped guide us to where to start.

  • Market data. Several large recruitment agencies publish annual reviews.  We used this data to help us understand which aspects of NPC’s employer offer are the most attractive to potential applicants, ultimately choosing to highlight our purpose, working environment, professional development and benefits on our refreshed recruitment page.
  • Equal opportunities data. Admittedly narrower than ‘diversity, equality and inclusion’ but most organisations collect this data from applicants and staff.  This data helped us identify that our brand and channels attract an equal number of male and female applicants but only a very small percentage of candidates declared a disability. We also learned that more than 15% of job applicants are BAME but less than 10% of our staff, which could indicate unconscious bias in our screening and selection process, which we are now exploring how to tackle.
  • Applicant feedback. We asked successful and unsuccessful candidates for feedback on their experience. The response rate was lower than hoped for but we did identify some quick wins for interview days.
  • Staff feedback. All staff were consulted but the experience of recent starters and staff returning from maternity leave was particularly helpful when making sure our inductions balance getting up to speed with time to reflect and absorb information.

Learn from others

NPC, like many small charities, does not have a dedicated HR team so it is vital for us to learn from others. There are several work placement and talent programmes available to the charity sector and we’ve found two that focus on diversity equality and inclusion to participate in this year:

  • Change 100, a 3-month paid work placement scheme for disabled undergraduates and graduates.
  • 2027, a 12-month talent programme to bring frontline workers from working class communities into grant-making.

Participating in these schemes has also given us access to a specialist network and peer support.  For example, as part of the Change 100 programme we received Disability Awareness training for all staff plus advice and support on making reasonable adjustments to our working environment.

What next?

While we are satisfied that we have made a good start, we know there is more to be done.

As part of the 2027 programme we have learned more about the potential benefits of an applicant tracking system to reduce unconscious bias and draw out valuable lived experience to supplement the more traditional professional experience captured in CVs. We are now exploring the cost-benefits for NPC.  And we are working towards Disability Confident accreditation before we participate in the Change 100 programme again later this year.

Looking beyond recruitment, we believe in diversity, equality and inclusion in the widest possible sense. We believe that our current staff group is a talented set of individuals with a broad range of professional and lived experience and skills sets who think in different ways. We also believe that diversity, equality and inclusion needs to permeate into all aspects of our work.

Ultimately, we want to create a working environment where everyone feels comfortable and able to achieve their full potential. We’d love to hear from other organisations who would be willing to share as we continue.


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