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Improving NFP Recruitment – Start With a Process and Practice Audit


Monday, 9th January 2017 at 8:15 am
Mike Brett
Having solutions in place that can ensure safe and reliable hiring decisions are made is critical to the not-for-profit sector, writes Xref NFP specialist Mike Brett, who examines what Melbourne Health has done to overcome some of the challenges facing its HR department.


Monday, 9th January 2017
at 8:15 am
Mike Brett


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Improving NFP Recruitment – Start With a Process and Practice Audit
Monday, 9th January 2017 at 8:15 am

Having solutions in place that can ensure safe and reliable hiring decisions are made is critical to the not-for-profit sector, writes Xref NFP specialist Mike Brett, who examines what Melbourne Health has done to overcome some of the challenges facing its HR department.

Whether we like to admit it or not most HR professionals will, at some point in their career, have made a bad hiring decision. I recently moderated a panel at the NFP People Conference in Melbourne, at the beginning of which I asked how many of the audience were willing to admit to a bad hire and was greeted with a sea of raised hands.

Given the way most HR processes are conducted, it’s frankly no surprise that this is the case.

In a recent survey commissioned by Xref, we uncovered the startling finding that almost one-third of respondents admitted to selecting an inappropriate person to act as their professional referee, including 16 per cent who had asked a friend, and 11 per cent who had elected to put forward a family member.

Of course, we can all see why people would do this – after all, Aunty Margaret’s never going to give you bad feedback – but it’s worrying that in today’s market, with all the platforms available to provide security and support to businesses to avoid these situations, it’s still so prevalent.

When you consider the risks of this kind of activity in the NFP sector, with organisations that are typically dealing with vulnerable people and sensitive issues, the need to crack down on it is heightened further still. With this increased threat, and the fact that Australia is home to hundreds of thousands of NFP organisations and six million volunteers, you’d think we’d have some standardised approaches to HR processes. But what became more and more apparent as we chatted to attendees of the conference is that we definitely do not.

Governance, something that’s very familiar to HR professionals in the NFP sector, and recruiting the right people go hand-in-hand in an industry that is so people focused – having solutions in place that can go some way to ensuring safe and reliable hiring decisions are made, is critical.

The added complications of healthcare recruitment

During the session I moderated, we heard recruitment services manager Sally Alacqua tell us about the challenges she’s faced since joining Melbourne Health, and the solutions she’s implemented to overcome them.

With Victoria’s second largest trauma hospital, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and the largest mental health service, North West Mental Health, sitting under the Melbourne Health banner, the organisation can be looking after a large proportion of the population at any one time – and it employs a staff of 10,000 in order to do so. This poses significant challenges in terms of how the organisation recruits and services its workforce.

Having been with Melbourne Health for more than two years, Sally has had time to assess and improve the processes in place. Given the public nature of the organisation, Sally identified the number one challenge facing the HR departments of organisations such as Melbourne Health being a lack of funding – given that, quite rightly, any money made available will usually be put towards something that is directly focused on patient care.

However, beyond the confines of operating within a limited company, Sally also highlighted a challenge many HR departments struggle with – a decentralised recruitment service. At Melbourne Health, the fact that more than 2,000 people are employed annually, but recruitment is handled by the staff who would typically spend the majority of their time focusing on other very specific and time-consuming tasks, such as employment contracts or staff delivery of patient care, was a cause of concern for Sally.

The lack of a centralised team, focused specifically on recruitment often translates into hiring managers following a process of going straight from screening CVs to conducting interviews, meaning a lot of time is wasted in discussions with individuals that are eventually deemed inappropriate for the role.

The lack of a dedicated recruitment team, can also have a detrimental impact on the efficiencies of the recruitment process. Sally mentioned that upon joining Melbourne Health she noticed that often, HR professionals across a range of disciplines would be paying for similar advertising for a variety of roles and, therefore, screening the same people for different opportunities resulting in time and money wasted.

Finding the right solutions

The key requirement identified by Sally was the need to plan for the future and establish a pipeline of talent. This is particularly necessary in the healthcare industry, where there are significant skills shortages. Rather than tackle the challenge alone, Sally set about establishing a network of recruitment, talent and HR managers from similar organisations to share their concerns and solutions.

Another common aspect of recruitment in the healthcare sector– and indeed others, such as manufacturing and retail – is the need to hire at volume. When high-volume hiring is required, efficiency and security in the processes used to identify successful candidates is crucial.

Ultimately, every organisation is different. While there are commonalities that we can draw on, share and learn from collectively, really understanding your own organisation, the industry and the talent pool available is critical to identifying, attracting and retaining the best people. What is true across the board is that old, traditional methods must make way for new, more efficient ways of doing things.

Whether that means adopting new technologies, or simply a new way of looking at a problem (such as sharing it with a group of like-minded peers), all HR departments will reap the rewards of a recruitment process and practice audit.

About the author: Mike Brett is a NFP specialist at Xref, a Sydney-based tech startup which provides online referencing solutions for companies, big and small, globally. He has a recruitment background spanning more than six years and is a technology advocate. He has a passion for increasing the efficiency of HR processes, particularly within the not-for-profit sector.


Mike Brett  |   |  @ProBonoNews

NFP specialist at Xref

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