Case Study

Volume recruitment events for health care support workers

Find out how North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust is recruiting candidates in large numbers using a new to care approach.

14 March 2024

Over the past 18 months, the people support services team at North Cumbria Integrated Care (NCIC) NHS Foundation Trust has delivered numerous recruitment events with a focus on appealing to candidates who have little or no experience in care work. Recruitment is concentrated on suitable values and behaviours of individuals rather than prioritising skills and experience. This has led to an effective series of volume recruitment days that continue to gain traction and popularity across the trust and contribute towards implementing actions in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

Key benefits and outcomes

  • Vacancies are filled faster and more efficiently.
  • Candidates have a better experience.
  • There is opportunity for different teams and services to collaborate and assist each other, which improves the overall recruitment process.

What the organisation faced

Following an increase in establishment of health care support worker (HCSW) roles, the people support services team reviewed its onboarding and HR processes, in particular the approach to delivering mass recruitment events.

The team decided it would be more beneficial to target people without experience in care work as they didn’t want to tap into, and potentially deplete, the already strained adult social care workforce. 

What the organisation did

Consideration was given to outsourcing recruitment and attraction to an agency, the cost was high, so therefore the team opted to manage it in-house instead. Centralising the process to the team made better use of financial resources and it was a fairer and more measured way of recruiting individuals who had the desired attributes and values. It was also decided that it would be beneficial to hold separate events solely dedicated to the recruitment of bank shift staff. 

For each planned recruitment day, adverts are posted on social media and this includes information about HCSW roles. The primary source is the trust’s Facebook page as it was found to be the best channel of gaining interest from and engaging with the target audience (those who are not experienced in care-based roles). Local media stations have also helped with promoting the recruitment drive and emphasising the message about it being values-based rather than the focus being on prior experience and skills. 

Up to 120 candidates can be invited to any one recruitment day, which is hosted at one of the trust’s estates and facilities sites. Each event begins by welcoming individuals and asking them to register, have their photo taken for an ID badge and either sign or decline a consent form for participating in media publicity. They then attend an observed group discussion/exercise, which is informal and is designed to put candidates at ease and learn more about HCSW roles before their interview. The conversations are inclusive and honest, providing valuable insight about the responsibilities and practical duties as well as expected standards and qualities required by candidates. 

Members of the interview panel do not have sight of application forms as this helps to remove unconscious bias and puts the focus on the candidate’s responses to questions, including observed values and behaviours. All factors are taken into consideration before making a decision to offer employment. 

Candidates are asked in advance to bring in forms of ID and documents to prove their right to work so that these can be checked and verified as early as possible.. Candidates who are offered a role then fill in an occupational health form meaning that anyone who requires an appointment can be booked in sooner. The event also provides hand hygiene and infection control sessions which cover an aspect of mandatory training. All of these elements contribute to streamlining the process and help to onboard new starters in a much shorter timeframe.

Feedback is gathered from candidates at the end of each event so that team can continually make improvements and increase efficiency to the process. Unsuccessful candidates are offered feedback and signposted to NCIC pre-employment programmes to support future applications and success.

A video snapshot of a recruitment day

Results and benefits

In 2023 NCIC appointed 344 HCSWs across five recruitment days.  

Additionally, it recruited to vacancies via its Step in Work scheme, which promotes skills development and offers coaching to potential staff. 34 candidates from the recruitment events have been enrolled onto the programme and have successfully gained a bank position upon completion.

The trust is now fully established for HCSWs with a healthy bank workforce who pick up an additional 100 whole time equivalent shifts a month covering sickness, annual leave and any other unexpected gaps in the workforce or patient surges (eg escalated beds). Joining the bank is viewed as an ideal way to see if working in health and social care is for you and the bank is a key talent pipeline for contracted HCSW posts.

The people support services team has established a strong reputation for its events due to the ongoing success and progress made. Support and buy-in from teams and colleagues has increased across the trust due to the demand for bank shift workers, with the incentive of having access to a bigger talent pipeline and seeing the whole recruitment process. Teams from all different areas now ask in advance when the next recruitment days are scheduled for as they actively want to be involved with facilitation. It has been fundamental in building trust and co-operation between services and this effective collaboration means that events can run smoothly and continue to be developed and improved.

The trust was also recently given an award for innovation and excellence by NHS England, which further demonstrates the positive impact of this recruitment initiative.

These recruitment days help to enable actions of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan specifically concerning the domestic recruitment of support worker roles and working at system and local levels to build attraction strategies. 

Overcoming obstacles

Recruitment days are very long and plenty of preparation, co-ordination and facilitation is required, but this has become easier to manage as more events are delivered and practice gained. 

Staff in some clinical teams were initially reluctant to relinquish control of recruitment to their vacant posts as it meant not being directly involved in the decision-making. However, after the people services team introduced events that concentrate on appointing bank shift staff, those colleagues got on board as it meant they could meet and engage with the candidates themselves.  Having support and involvement from senior and executive level colleagues also helped to promote the events and encourage staff from all areas to contribute. 

Future plans

The trust has started to pilot a new scheme with a local authority, whereby the organisations share staff who have been recruited to the NCIC bank. This means that employees on the bank can access shifts in local care homes as well as within hospital settings. One benefit of this is that a patient can potentially have a better experience if they are cared for by the same person in hospital and also when they are transferred to a care home - this becomes a more likely possibility when those staff live in the local area.

Takeaway tips

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare! Recruitment days require a lot of planning to ensure they run smoothly.
  • Engage and build relationships with teams across the service (eg those based in different hospital wards) as contribution from all areas is invaluable to making events successful. 
  • Consider hosting recruitment events on Saturdays. Usually, more facilities and bigger spaces are available, and colleagues can support without having to take time out from their normal working hours. 
  • Provide refreshments – for both candidates and colleagues. It may seem trivial, but food and drink provisions are always appreciated, particularly on long days when people have given up their spare time to participate.  

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