I am writing this blog from our UK RPO office in Bristol.  I love this city with the zeal of a late-adopting convert; I didn’t move here until my mid (you’re kidding yourself Joe – late) twenties and I never consider leaving.

As an employer in this city, operating as part of a global business, we wanted to find a way to match the global values of PeopleScout with cultural and employee engagement activities that would reflect our immediate surroundings.  One aim has been to educate each other on issues in society that can impact, and be impacted by, a company’s recruiting activity.  As part of this, we spotlight monthly Diversity & Inclusion themes through internal communications and employee events.

Earlier this year, to help us make sense of this “work globally, think locally” approach, we commissioned a group of University of the West of England business students to interview and survey PeopleScout colleagues about this activity.

The issues faced in society where our teams said they couldn’t necessarily see how recruitment practices helped, and therefore the relevance to our company (as an RPO provider) was less clear, were:

  • Homelessness
  • Loneliness among the elderly
  • Social mobility

This made me think deeply about the connection to recruitment.  Can RPO structures really help these themes directly? I think they can and do.  Recruitment should certainly be a driver of social mobility.  That means equality, not just prosperity – some of our clients actively prioritise and support candidates from low income households to increase the diversity of their workforce. Recruitment with a social mobility agenda helps organisations diversify and better represent their consumers and local communities. Those who don’t adapt, will also struggle to be a destination of choice for tomorrow’s Gen Z leaders who are much more deeply motivated in their careers by the social impact of their employers.

Loneliness amongst the elderly is directly related to an ageing workforce and society yet, as this article puts forward, “perhaps one of the biggest and most problematic types of bias we face is the bias of age: we often evaluate people based on their age, and this is now becoming a major challenge in the workplace”. Our advice to clients, particularly on hard to fill roles where supply is short, is to build longer term strategies recruiting from unrelated areas supported by training. We recently conducted a labour market analysis for a large national tech organisation struggling to find engineers and found a very surprising alternative source of staff ready to go but previously untapped.

Homelessness is a wicked* societal issue. Single point solutions do not work. There is also a difference, of course, between long term unemployed and homelessness. Recruitment partnerships with job centres are a best practice step forward, as is supporting local charities with fundraising and volunteering. Bolder, more creative steps are needed here from local employers willing to think beyond cost per hire metrics and look for ways to help homeless people in their neighbourhood with what they need.

All in all, for recruitment to tackle ‘global’ talent challenges that help the ‘local’ environment right outside your/our doors, it starts with education and being informed about the issues. Why? In my view the identity and success of any business lies in its people and, by extension, the community in which those people live. 

*A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. It refers to an idea or problem that cannot be fixed, where there is no single solution to the problem.