Like all local authorities, North Somerset Council has faced increasing pressures to modernise its recruitment methods while keeping costs down in the downturn. The council has maintained a flexible approach, successfully generating a growing majority of job places solely using online recruitment tools. This strategy is backed by electronic consultancy advice from web-based talent management and HR services provider, JGP.
Operating under a tight spending regime and with new Treasury spending targets in place, online recruitment has proved its worth more effectively than ever to the South West authority.
First phase E-recruitment
North Somerset is used to harnessing the Internet for recruitment, having taken up JGP’s e-recruitment platform four years ago. Seeing this medium’s potential, the council hosted the platform to advertise available jobs, delivered on an annual fee basis with JGP.
There were immediate benefits with this approach, according to Recruitment Officer, Clare Atyeo: “Online job advertisements were cheaper than newspaper-based space. They were also easier to monitor expenditure, track responses and evaluate cost per appointment made by the council over the financial year.”
Even before the new cost constraints, North Somerset’s different departments were accustomed to making optimum use of limited resources from the central government. A unitary authority with a higher than average proportion of third age residents and school age children requiring benefits, the council receives an average of £210 per capita funding from Whitehall, putting it in the bottom quartile of UK authorities (the highest authority settlements reach £600 per head).
The council has traditionally maintained a hard-headed approach to benefits expenditure too: the element allocated to benefits remains one of the lowest proportions of overall council tax in any authority. North Somerset is committed to keep funding within inflation rate increases in the future.
The JGP e-recruitment channel was generating 46% of job applications by 2006 and the online strategy received added emphasis when the council’s Executive changed political allegiance in the May 2007 local council elections. As part of a general review of operations, headcount, and spending, the new Conservative Executive encouraged a greater focus on targeted e-recruitment and when required, carefully targeted signposted advertising, such as banner advertisements directing online users to North Somerset’s website.
The operational side of the council’s new policy also changed. Stringent and more centralised senior management approval systems for recruitment needs were introduced. When a council directorate needed new staff, separate director, HR department and senior management team sign offs were required before the vacancy could be advertised. All job posts of over six months' duration were then advertised internally and externally – so transparency was maintained.
Dan Taylor-Edwards of JGP explained: “North Somerset is typical in having a difficult balance to strike, since they are looking for modernised recruitment processes, the practicality of advertisements in one place that also ties in with their internal resourcing and spending controls and delivers cost savings in line with the Government’s targets. They are making good progress in all areas and will be developing more sophisticated approaches in the future.”
The renewed focus on e-recruitment channels has helped to deliver benefits in terms of cost savings; the growing proportion of new posts filled through online route; and changing internal perceptions of e-recruitment’s capabilities.
Cost savings were the most dramatic immediate result. North Somerset saved £100,000 over the previous recruitment advertising budget in the first year of the new approach agreed in 2007.
The second major outcome is the growing dominance of Internet-based recruitment in supplying candidates and also filling job positions at North Somerset. Council metrics show that the JGP-backed e-recruitment channel filled nearly half of all advertised vacancies in the first year (2005/6) but this has steadily increased to 60% in the latest 2007/8 financial year (see table below).
The third and potentially most far-reaching development is internal awareness of recruitment. As Clare Atyeo, commented: “Several years ago, senior management saw online recruitment as an. experiment. Now we’re finding that senior managers are increasingly asking about talent pools and microsites for their departments – that’s a real change in mindset that will drive new strategies and promote wider cost savings across recruitment processes.”
North Somerset’s Executive member for Finance, Property and Human Resources Tony Lake said: “E-recruitment has been a key factor in keeping recruitment costs down while maintaining a high quality of staff recruitment.”