Why your recruitment supplier needs more than just the right tech to unlock social value

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Social value is high on the agenda for London Borough of Hackney – but how is a neutral vendor supplier supporting its ambition to get more local residents into employment? Stuart Thorn, Head of Human Resources, London Borough of Hackney, explains why it’s important to look beyond just the tech to create a smoother recruitment process, and build partnerships that rely on good people to be able to unlock the most value from them.

When social value is high on the agenda, you can’t underestimate the power of people; people in the local community, people within your own teams and external partners that you work with to ensure that the recruitment process is as smooth and efficient as can be.

Don’t get me wrong. The tech is important too. In fact, we’re confident we’ve got the most seamless recruitment technology in place – but it hasn’tcome easy. We procured a contract to find the right agency supplier back in 2016. We knew what we wanted, and the incumbent supplier told us we should stick with what we know that works. But when we were presented with a submission from neutral vendor Matrix, they answered our call as a partner who did exactly what we asked and could address all our recruitment needs.

As our services expanded, it was clear that we needed a partner who had local knowledge of the borough, experience working with local councils, and the understanding that an off- the-shelf model wouldn’t work. In terms of cost and quality, Matrix came out on top. But what set them apart was that they took the time to really understand our business, our challenges and needs and were able to create a solution that delivered on all fronts.

Yes, they had the right technology in place to be able to work seamlessly with our internal systems when it came to things like invoicing and, while there was some work to be done in the implementation stage with the systems and integration process, what we ended up with was a proprietary solution created for us, and a model that works effectively on that front.

But the technology was just one piece of the puzzle. The other essential part of this was the personnel. One can’t work without the other and having a close relationship with the partner responsible for sourcing agency staff, makes a world of difference. A smoother recruitment process through tech is essential, of course, but to unlock real social value requires working relationships that have a personal touch – by that I mean a partner who shows real effort in wanting to engage. As head of HR, that’s what I want in a relationship and it’s a very refreshing approach.

Our social agenda is to get more local residents into employment within Hackney, so we need a partner who can support that mission with the right people in place to make it happen. And things have been going well. You’re always going to have bumps in the road and there’s always an opportunity to do better when it comes to things like diversity and inclusivity when sourcing agency staff, but with the right things in place and an emphasis on improvement, things have been working much better.

Working with the right partners and the right people provides not just a better working relationship but, for us, has resulted in a better process of getting local residents into employment via the contract. And having the capability from a partner like Matrix to provide information allows us to capture as much information as possible to support our diversity agenda is key to unlocking social value.

At the end of the day, tech is important but it’s the people that make a partnership. And working in unison with a trusted partner to create the right solution that encompasses both tech and teams means that we have the right recruitment model in place to help drive this agenda forward and take us to the next level.

My final word of advice to other councils: invest the time in getting it right to be able to get as much out of a partnership as you can.

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