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Marketing in social care recruitment

What role does marketing play in social care recruitment? David Huckerby explains all.

Recruitment is a word on everyone’s lips at the moment, whether talking about the effect of Brexit on the status of thousands of EU workers, the perennial shortage of nurses or the impact of continued underfunding from the Government, the conversation never veers far from the dreaded ‘R’ word.

As a public relations specialist, you may wonder why I am writing about recruitment. We work with care providers to raise their profile, improve occupancy and grow their businesses. Recently, clients have asked us to work with their HR teams to support their recruitment initiatives.

The reason for this is simple. Organisations are starting to understand that their reputation, as an employer, can have a substantial impact on their ability to attract high-quality staff. Staff that are critical to the sustainability of their business.

Whether you like it or not, your organisation will already have a reputation as an employer, be that a good one or a bad one. Recruitment is rarely a cheap exercise. By putting some time into building a positive ‘employer brand’, you could attract great talent, saving yourself a significant amount of time and money.

Challenges to effective recruitment

Much has been written recently about the challenges facing care providers, but it is worth reiterating the factors that are having a direct impact on providers’ ability to recruit effectively.

The social care sector may need to fill an extra one million jobs by 2025 to cope with the increasing demand for services. This demand comes from, among other causes, a growing ageing population.

Just as when you market your business to potential customers, the messaging and branding you choose for recruitment is crucial. It needs to be consistent, authentic and memorable.

Ongoing underfunding continues to constrain providers’ abilities to compete in the jobs market. Providers are reliant on the rewarding aspect of increasingly challenging roles. However, this can only go so far when prospective candidates consider the potential strain on their health, personal lives and bank balances.

There is also much that social care needs to do to make itself attractive to young people when mapping out their study and career choices. Whether that’s a more structured career path, more understanding of the opportunities, or merely a sector-wide push to ensure that its workforce is valued, nurtured and treasured as the undoubted heroes they are.

Why recruitment and marketing have grown closer

With so many options for recruiting people, it is very easy to burn through a recruitment budget quickly. This places a strong emphasis on effective targeting, which is where marketing and PR teams come into their own. They have spent years getting to know specific audiences, how to reach them and how to carefully package and deliver key organisational messages that will resonate with them.

Positioning your organisation as an employer of choice can be a careful process. However, it is not always the most direct and obvious routes that are effective. Good PR teams can highlight the benefits of choosing a particular company in a more measured, subtle way, cutting through much of the traditional, hard-edged recruitment messages.

Neil Eastwood, founder of Sticky People, summed this up particularly well recently, saying, ‘Marketing and PR is an increasingly important aspect of care recruitment, because employers now have to work much harder to find and attract quality candidates against a backdrop of increasing competition.

‘These disciplines play a major role in raising local awareness, driving traffic to your website, differentiating your employment offer, engaging audiences on social media as well as communicating the culture and values of your organisation.

‘I don’t see how providers can compete in today’s jobs market without a marketing-led approach to recruitment.’

Social care talks a lot about the need to be honest and authentic when communicating with key stakeholders. Essentially, you want to let people know what makes your organisation unique and what makes it a great place to work. If, as a company, you are there for the right reasons and honest about your shortcomings, it can create an authenticity. This is often easier for smaller providers to achieve, coming across as personal and engaged employers.

Making best use of all marketing and recruitment channels

Print advertising, job boards and recruitment companies are all viable solutions to meet short-term recruiting needs. However, to continue to attract real talent, organisations need to develop a strong brand that is synonymous with being a good employer.

Each time you come into contact with a potential candidate is an opportunity to engage and enthuse them. Don’t ignore certain ways of recruiting people. Don’t continuously churn out one-dimensional recruitment pleas. This risks alienating potential recruits and creating a negative lasting impression on them. You could be seen as old-fashioned or inflexible, none of which are great traits in a would-be employer.

Just as when you market your business to potential customers, the messaging and branding you choose for recruitment is crucial. It needs to be consistent, authentic and memorable.

It is also far more effective to adopt a drip-feed approach towards marketing-led recruitment, rather than a blast campaign as and when you need to bolster your staff numbers. Recruitment should not be turned on or off depending on the needs of the business. It should be a consistent effort to communicate with the best talent for your business and build a desire to join your company in their minds.

To put this into some context, finding a care provider for a relative is something that the average person may do two or three times in their lifetime. They are certainly not on the lookout all the time. However, if they have read good things about a particular provider in their local paper, met them at a local community event and read a helpful online article they have written about choosing care, they are far more likely to pick up the phone and talk to them when the time does come to source care.

This is just the same for potential employees – very few people regard a job as being for life anymore. You need to be in their minds when they are either in a period of unemployment, unhappy with an existing job or merely looking for a fresh challenge. The beauty of effective marketing-led recruitment is to turn the process on its head and develop a situation where people want to be part of your organisation.

It is equally important to use social media effectively to promote open opportunities and share engaging content about the culture of your organisation. Social media has a place in generating sales. It also has a place in the recruitment-marketing mix.

Social media offers a great opportunity for small companies to compete with the big players. This is certainly true with recruitment. Small providers naturally come across as more personal and closer to the frontline. For this reason, it is crucial that, if you are a larger provider, you establish a personality for your business. To do this, imagine this personality in human form (someone famous is normally easier). This can give you a feeling of what your business might say and how it would say it. Share this with your colleagues and even put a picture of the person you have in mind on the wall.

I believe that, over time, the company with the more compelling story will attract the best talent. As with every other aspect of marketing and communications, if you stand still and stick to tried and tested methods, your competitors will be innovating and you could be left behind.

Top tips for developing a marketing-led recruitment strategy

  1. Develop a marketing-led recruitment strategy that sets out:
  • Your target audience.
  • Where you are likely to reach them.
  • The key messages that will build your ‘employer brand’ effectively.
  1. Ensure your messaging and branding is consistent with the actual experience of working for your organisation.
  • Invite feedback from your existing workforce, you may be surprised how positive they are about you as an employer.
  • Even if they’re not, they will be an invaluable source of ideas about what you do well and what you could be doing better.
  1. Review every place you come into contact with a potential candidate. Each one is an opportunity to attract talent, try not to waste it.
  • Website.
  • Social media.
  • Local press.
  • Events.

David Huckerby is Director of GD PR & Media Ltd. Email: Twitter: @GD_PR

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