Coventry Council has cut its vacancy rate by half. It attributes this achievement to a major overhaul of its recruitment strategy.
It is one of the UK’s most improved employers over the past two years. Amid long-standing recruitment problems in the West Midlands, an Ofsted assessment in 2008 said attracting full-time social workers was one of the council’s biggest challenges.
But the authority reduced its vacancy rate from 24% in 2009 to 12% in 2010.
During this time it opened the doors of its children’s services to the BBC for a hard-hitting Panorama documentary, screened last November.
A rolling recruitment campaign was just one of the strategies employed to tackle the problems highlighted in the TV programme, which revealed one social worker had a caseload of 39.
Andy Pepper, the council’s head of neighbourhood services, says the rolling campaign avoided the need for expensive one-off adverts in the press and was complemented by the hiring of overseas social workers from the US.
But the process began with a major rethink. “We knew a fresh approach was required and we worked closely with our resourcing partner Tribal to develop and deliver a new strategy,” Pepper says.
Through a series of focus groups with staff and by studying the experience of neighbouring authorities, Pepper and his colleagues analysed the council’s reputation as an employer, addressing concerns that arose.
The council then built its recruitment strategy around the positive selling points identified by the research, launched a website and began contacting applicants quickly.
“Following the first advert in the new campaign, the monthly application rate rose tenfold from about two-and-a-half to 25,” Pepper says.