On Friday 6th August, Louis Stockwell, the Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Connected Procurement & Commissioning (CPC) programme welcomed delegates to the Going Above & Beyond in Diverse Public Service Recruitment session. This session is part of a series of webinars that iNetwork is hosting on the topic of skills attraction, development and retention across the local public sector, as a response to colleagues who have had challenges with the skills gap in the sector.

This session shared insights and perspectives on diversity and inclusion in organisations, with a particular focus on recruitment. Colleagues heard from Phil Pennill, Caron Tinto and Akul Pankhania from Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Skills Intelligence Team, and Vimla Appadoo from UK Culture Shift. We discussed how a better understanding of local demographics and D&I can help to widen the skills and talent pool for the public sector as well as promoting better understanding of the mutual benefit that greater diversity can bring to public services and the communities they serve.

In the first session, Phil, Caron, and Akul from the GMCA Skills Intelligence Team explored some of the insights gained from their analysis of the Greater Manchester labour market and current skills gaps across the region. Phil shared how the team has developed employer led intelligence to get up to date information on the skills gap, in order to increase the productivity of the GM workforce. The image below shows that in the first 3 months of 2021 the largest employing sectors in GM were Health, Business Admin/Support Services and Professional Scientific with Technical. 

Phil then went on to share the top 3 job postings across GM and the top 10 jobs across GM, (see Image A below). Phil also shared the top 5 skills requested across GM (see Image B).

Ideally, in public sector demographics for GM, the team looks to see if a Local Authority or Public Sector Organisation is representative and is measured by the expectation that the workforce demographic roughly tallies with the working age population demographic.

Caron proceeded to share the bigger picture across GM. As we know, COVID19 has highlighted further inequalities in society and  from an employment level. In GM they produced the GM Independent Inequalities Commission Report out of the 17 recommendations in this report 3 were pertinent to recruitment; creating a GM Works to upskill and re-skill, target employers to offer a living wage and bridging the skills gap by encouraging employers to work with colleges/universities to look at life long learning. 

There are different aspects that feed into the recruitment process and Caron went over some things to consider; 

  • Understand the data demographics and the retention rates and identify any correlations 
  • Ensure buy in from senior teams
  • Check that job adverts are worded correctly so that it is open to all groups

Caron recommended some resources and highlighted some amazing work across GM, for example Tech Returners who support women to get back into digital roles after a career break. 

Finally, Phil shared a case study of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and how they have worked hard to increase diversity within their organisation. Initially, they struggled to attract BAME and female employees, so they developed a positive action team to encourage people to apply. Part of their strategy was to deliver a series of recruitment support events by using a targeted community approach. They would find a suitable location, eg a local supermarket, community centre, religious centre and speak to people out in the community about careers in policing. In addition, they reviewed their recruitment process and changed their criteria and no longer ask for prior experience in volunteering as this was identified as discriminating against certain communities. This has helped them increase the number of BAME and female employees within the organisation. 

The next session of the day was by Vimla Appadoo who asked delegates to consider ‘What does a Diverse Culture look like? Vimla began by introducing herself as a Head of Experience at Culture Shift and as an advocate for diversity and inclusion through her role on the board of Diversity UK

Culture Shift provides evidence based product and services to empower organisations to enact meaningful and sustainable change and offer Culture Shift packages across the UK. Vimla explained that at Culture Shift all employees are encouraged to undertake inclusivity training and understand the impact of unconscious bias at the point of recruitment and policies are openly shared so everyone understands why decisions are being made. 

In her session, Vimla discussed the role of organisational culture and how the role of leadership and decision makers can help to embed diverse cultures in the workplace to help everyone feel happier and safer at work. At Culture Shift, the platform they offer in their package works by enabling organisations to listen to their staff/employees/user-base to really understand what is happening on the ground and provide a front end reporting tool that allows the organisation to listen to any concerns, and provide a support system within a contract management system. You can see how this process works in the image below.

Vimla’s presentation was an interactive session with delegates where she unpicked what a diverse culture looks like, often diversity is not just what we look like. It was discussed how diversity goes beyond the surface, individuals can have similarities in their educational backgrounds or geographical location, thus diversity is how our personal experiences make us think differently to solve problems. Vimla went on to explore the 6 different steps that organisations can use to embed a diverse culture; leadership, collecting data, implementing a reporting tool, creating transparent policies and then actively changing the process. This is highlighted in the image below.

Finally, it was discussed how diversity in an organisational context can be understood as a situation when everyone is happy, healthy and emotionally safe with open conversations where everyone can work together and respond to each other’s needs. 

Delegates were then asked to split off into breakout rooms, for an opportunity to reflect on the presentations and to share their own experiences. 

Delegates discussed how in the NHS the recruitment process is consistent across the board and applicants will apply via NHS jobs, they do collect data but it is not often used. Other colleagues from Local Authorities also mentioned that their organisations collect data, however this is often not analysed to an extent that gives useful intelligence about representation and diversity in recruitment.

There was also a discussion about the difficulty of overcoming often rigid policies relating to job descriptions, and how outdated job descriptions that use specific language can be a barrier to certain groups. Delegates also spoke about how public sector applications are often long-winded and time consuming, therefore the application form becomes a barrier in itself.

Finally, delegates and speakers discussed what they would take away from the case studies at the event and that they would look to implement open/taster days, create targeted and tailored programs to attract underrepresented groups, and encourage senior buy-in in their organisations. This topic remains a priority for iNetwork and our programme coordinators are committed to revisiting this issue in future events and activities.