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How can we ensure post lockdown recruitment is inclusive?

Once restrictions ease, roles could demand more in-person communication or travel than before
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As hiring confidence builds, how can employers ensure that any reasonable adjustments they make for candidates will match the working conditions and environment as restrictions ease and more people head back into the office? Angela Matthews explains. 

With a high percentage of businesses reporting plans to recruit within the next three to six months, Business Disability Forum has been talking to its members about purposefully designing inclusion into their recruitment.

Many employers are currently considering their assessment and selection methods and whether these will be face to face, blended (some are designing a mixture of in-person and online assessments), or entirely remote.

The difficulty some employers are experiencing is that the roles they are recruiting into within the next two-three months will have remote assessment tasks yet, when their workforce eventually returns to their usual work environment, these same roles will demand a high level of in-person communications and problem solving than cannot be easily assessed remotely.

Reasonable adjustments

We are seeing an increased number of queries to our advice service about what is ‘reasonable’ when adjusting recruitment practice while we are still in lockdown for roles that will eventually be in-person, demand travel, or include managing people in busy face to face client environments.

It presents an additional consideration to ‘what is reasonable’ when making adjustments for candidates during the recruitment process.

Usually, adjustments during recruitment might not be reasonable (or fair to the candidate) to make if they cannot be replicated in the daily reality of performing that role.

We spoke to many employers who, for example, give candidate some twenty per cent extra time to complete assessment tasks during the recruitment stage but, when a candidate is recruited and doing the job, extra time for that task is not the reality of how that job needs to be done.

No one wins in situations where recruiters have not considered how adjustments during recruitment can be replicated in the job. The business does not get the outputs needed, and a candidate’s time and talent have been wasted onboarding into a job that does not suit how they work.

Where is the talent?

One of the most challenging issues that has faced inclusive employers throughout the pandemic is how to retain staff who are shielding or isolating.

This includes staff whose condition has not been listed as a priority for vaccination or as clinically vulnerable but who are choosing to isolate.

At a time when many businesses face decreased profit margins due to the pandemic, many have had to make unfortunate decisions about how long it is reasonably doable for them to keep staff who cannot carry out the role because of how the pandemic affects how they need to keep themselves safe and well.

Many of our members have embraced this topic of staff with disabilities or conditions not being able to work in face-to-face roles and are instead taking the opportunity to redistribute skills internally.

The pandemic has given employees permission to think about how they choose to work long term and what ‘inclusive’ means to them.

The natural ‘go to’ for many employers with vacancies to fill is to look externally – to people who do not currently work for them, recruitment agencies and inclusive job boards. However, the talent you need may already exist inside your organisation.

At the same time, employees are using the experience of the pandemic to think about their development. We are hearing that employees are hungry to learn new skills and are interested in pursuing roles and functions that are new to their current employer due to the impact of the pandemic on business delivery.

The people who already have organisational knowledge and who you have already invested in may be the ideal people to fulfil roles that are new to your organisation.This style of ‘internal first’ recruitment is of interest to the government’s economic recovery and growth strategy.

Their recent call for evidence from employers who are investing in in-work progression recently closed. In our research for this consultation, we spoke to businesses who look internally first each time a vacancy becomes available.

True inclusion is not just about recruiting disabled people; it is also about pushing them onwards to progress their career in the way that they choose to do.

What do candidates want?

We are hearing that some employees are wary of changing jobs at the moment and are unenthused by joining a new workforce and team remotely.

Many are looking for opportunities, but they are also looking for how (and if) employers are being open in adverts and job descriptions about how new recruits are expected to work now and how they will be expected to work as the nation continues to emerge from lockdown.

This research has helped our members consider their future business delivery model alongside their resourcing strategies.

As an example, many employees we spoke to as part of the research said they were considering applying for a promotion and other progression opportunities (such as lateral movement job shadowing initiatives) in their organisation.

But they were waiting for announcements from senior leaders on what the future of home working arrangements are in their organisation and did not plan to applying for internal opportunities until this decision had been announced.

Many have concerns about applying for roles when the future location, and travel requirements of that role, were unsure.

The pandemic has given employees permission to think about how they choose to work long term and what ‘inclusive’ means to them.

With some employers choosing to stay as remote workforces, others saying they want to return to full time office working, and others still offering employees the choice (depending on their roles), how and where a role are carried out are now important aspects of the recruitment and retention debate.

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Written by HR Today

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