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Strategic recruitment: Dorset Council’s innovative approach to increasing recruitment reach and effectiveness

Dorset Council has begun a transformation of our recruitment. Our aim was to improve candidate connections, foster inclusivity, embrace technology and use data-driven decision making. This innovative approach has proven to enhance recruitment effectiveness, with measurable results, offering valuable and transferable insights for other local authorities.

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The challenge

Recruitment applications have significantly reduced over the last few years, particularly in our specialist and hard-to-fill roles. We’ve been unable to fill qualified positions in our essential services, leading to long-standing unfilled vacancies, increased workload and risks to retention as well as our ability to provide effective and efficient services.

We hoped to address these challenges by promoting who the council is as an employer and the genuine positives about working in local government. We aimed to represent our community more accurately through inclusive recruitment practice as well as engaging with young people through an early careers strategy.

The solution

A full-time post was introduced to challenge the way we look at recruitment. To define our employer brand and market Dorset Council as an employer. Dorset Council introduced human-centric and inclusive practices, empowering managers through training, eliminating discriminatory language, and implementing social media marketing for recruitment.

Some of the Recruitment & Attraction team onsite filming some of our Rangers at Moors Valley Country Park to demonstrate our diversity of roles across the council

We’ve focussed on creating videos to promote vacancies and showcase our culture across the organisation, focusing on authentic stories and real people to share what it is like to work here. Here is an example of a video we created with the Highways team. Our recruitment social media strategy is focused on separate social media channels that both promote jobs, but more importantly showcase our success, achievements, our people, our diversity of jobs and our ways of working.

Our Early Careers strategy has been launched to introduce young people to careers in local government whilst also supporting our local young people with the skills and knowledge they need to enter the workforce. Our first career fair is due to launch in March 2024 and our Early Careers social media campaign has meant building on lesser used platforms like TikTok and YouTube to reach a new audience.

Image of employee smiling while holding laptop. Mia, Senior Team Administrator is quoted as saying, ‘One thing I really value is the flexible working option. This allows me to enjoy extra curricular activities which would otherwise be impossible to attend due to working hours

We’ve moved away from using an external agency to recruit for our leadership posts, using our own knowledge and platforms to generate interest, leverage the selling points and reach out to potential applicants. We have appointed successfully first time on all five campaigns carried out in the last six months.

Through embracing technology, the council is implementing an advanced Applicant Tracking System, to support managers through automation and data-driven decision-making.

The impact it made

Eight Dorset Council employees aged 18-24 looking at each other and smiling

Measurable success underscores the transformative impact of Dorset Council's innovative recruitment strategies, providing notable outcomes and substantial cost savings. Key achievements include:

Increased applications and reduced reliance on external channels

  • 400 per cent increase in applications for hard-to-fill roles.
  • strategic use of job boards, resulting in a 62 per cent reduction in recruitment advertising spend within six months.

Enhanced social media presence

  • demonstrated broader reach through a 40 per cent increase in social media following across all platforms in the last six months.
  • tailored support for specialist roles resulting in a remarkable 400 per cent increase in applications on average.
  • introduction of additional platforms (Threads, YouTube, TikTok) broadening audience reach and engagement.

Internal process efficiency and cost reduction

  • approximately £50,000 in savings over six months by managing processes internally, from promotion to interview coordination.
  • a 68 per cent reduction in broader recruitment advertising spend by eliminating reliance on external job boards.

Internal recruitment success

  • in the last quarter, 77 roles offered internally, attracting 190 applications.
  • impressive results with 90 per cent of internal applicants invited for interviews and a 68 per cent success rate in hiring.

Training initiatives and increased hiring manager efficiency

  • training initiatives for hiring managers yielding a 70 per cent confirmation rate for roles filled on the first attempt, a significant improvement from 50 per cent in 2022.
  • a notable 26 per cent reduction in time to hire in 2023, compared to 2022 and 2021.

Increased retention and improved applicant quality

  • enhanced retention rates, reducing new starter departures to 8 per cent, reflecting the team's commitment to transparent and robust assessments.

These tangible achievements affirm Dorset Council's commitment to efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and the overall success of its innovative recruitment initiatives.

How is the approach being sustained?

Dorset Council sustains its approach through ongoing data-driven decision-making, positive feedback mechanisms, and continuous improvement strategies. The adoption of innovative technologies and practices ensures the longevity and adaptability of the council's transformative recruitment initiatives.

Involving the workforce in the Early Careers working group has allowed a co-creation of our approach and involving our younger employees in the social media and photo-shoot has enabled us to build relationships within the workforce and gain momentum behind a young people’s employee network, to allow peer support and input on relevant future council policies and decisions.

Any lessons learned so that other councils can avoid mistakes or gain from success

Navigating the balance between injecting a sense of fun and playfulness into our social media recruitment promotions while maintaining a responsible approach befitting a local authority is crucial. Recognising our obligation to ensure content appropriateness and sensible use of resources, we've discovered that embracing this challenge can lead to compelling outcomes.

By actively leaning into creativity, leveraging cost-effective tools such as mobile phones, we've realised the potential to generate honest and suitable content. Acknowledging the inherent risks in online content sharing, our commitment to embracing new methods in both work and council promotion has empowered us to effect positive change.

Recruitment and marketing are both unique skillsets and we’ve found that by combining these within Human Resources, has had a huge benefit to this work and our success. There is a need to understand best practice and employment law as well as an up-to-date knowledge of social media and marketing which I’ve not seen anywhere else.

Further information

If you would like any further information on some of the changes we have made in our approach to recruitment, please do contact Erin Lawrence at [email protected]