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2nd Nov, 2023

Craig Lewis
Craig Lewis
Job Title
Senior Content Writer
Watch Tracey Dawes and David Dannatt's presentation at the NHS Workforce Conference

The question of where new talent is found and how it is developed is increasingly prevalent.

While recruitment challenges around the sourcing of talent have plateaued in some sectors, within the NHS there are always talent shortages. Equally, there is a desire to find more diverse employees, from a variety of backgrounds. When looking at these candidates, their life experiences and values are often more important than what their CV says.

In its talent strategy, the health service’s leadership academy says its top priority is to promote an inclusive approach to talent management.

Tracey Dawes, Solutions Director, and David Dannatt, Head of Talent Delivery, at Reed Talent Solutions, spoke at The NHS Workforce Conference 2023, on 19 September 2023, highlighting how the world of recruitment is focused on tapping into hidden workforces and unlocking talent.

Their talk focused on how removing as many barriers to employment as possible is vital to ensure diversity, equality and equity are part of any talent solution.

Tracey said: “Our role in the recruitment process is to make sure we are able to reach as much talent as possible, while ensuring we are attracting a diverse population.” 

Why are increased diversity, equality and equity important?

Attracting non-traditional candidates to your workforce has many benefits, from allowing people to be more authentic to bringing new ideas into the business. These benefits include: 

  • Cultural fit vs cultural add: Many organisations are guilty of ‘selecting somebody because they fit’. Instead, businesses should ‘culturally add’ employees. The trick is to not simply look for the same type of person your company already has but invest in someone’s innate skills and life experiences. 

  • A wider talent pool: A successful business will naturally want as much access to talent as possible. Excluding someone because they don’t fit traditional requirements goes against that goal. 

  • Building an inclusive working environment: Increased diversity allows people to be their authentic selves within the workplace, leading to them being more motivated and more likely to remain at an organisation. 

  • More motivation, innovation and better performance: If a business is made up of a variety of people, with different life experiences, it will grow and prosper as it won’t have the same people saying the same things all the time. 

One real life example of how diversity can benefit organisations can be seen in the results of a JP Morgan study, quoted in the Harvard Business Review, which showed autistic professionals can be up to 140% more productive than typical employees when properly matched to jobs. 

What can we do to remove the barriers to employment?

At every stage of the recruitment process, organisations and recruiters can work to remove the barriers that put non-traditional candidates off. During their presentation at the conference, David and Tracey, looked at the example of an NHS client in a call centre environment, analysing how his team helped them achieve their diversity, equality, and equity goals. 

  • Attraction: 

At the attraction stage it is important to both use the technology available, but also not to get carried away with it to the exclusion of traditional recruitment methods such as word of mouth, job centres or putting up posters in community centres.

The aim is to attract the most diverse group of people available, so - for example - it is vital to make sure the materials used go through gender decoders.

Our client was looking to bring in an older workforce, with plenty of life experience, so David’s team worked closely with the Jobcentre and community centres.

David said: “We had a lot of success with the Jobcentre, and ran an experience day with our client so people could get a real understanding what it is like to work for them.

“We were very successful in getting people to attend those experience days, with 60 people getting through that first attraction stage.” 

  • Application: 

One of the most common conundrums businesses are faced with when looking to recruit hidden talent is whether to ask for a CV. If a company is trying to remove barriers to employment, is a CV always necessary?

Often, it is more important to understand someone’s skills and the values they can bring, rather than the history they have or what is included on their CV. The same applies to covering letters.

Tracey said: “It’s important to understand the motivation for someone applying for a particular job. It is about recognising someone might be applying for a job because they want to develop a career rather than thinking they are the end article.”

Our client wanted to bring lived experience into their workforce. David said they were comfortable they could train the skills to do the job, but wanted people with empathy and who could talk to others.

“For that, do you need a CV of their work history? Absolutely not,” he said. 

  • Interview: 

The interview stage of any recruitment process can be the biggest barrier to candidates’ applying for a role. Giving them plenty of information about who will be managing the interview process, how it will work at each stage, and how quickly they will get an answer, will help candidates approach this hurdle with more confidence.

Tracey said not leaving the hiring decision to a single interviewer is a really good way to bring in diverse people.

“We are huge advocates of diverse panel interviews,” she said. “Making sure there is a shared consensus among an interview panel to come up with the decision to employ someone.” 

She also pointed towards the benefits of value-based interviewing, where a decision is not made purely based on someone’s existing skills and experience but on whether they have the right values and can provide that ‘cultural add’.

Another new development is the continuing influence of video interviewing. This phenomenon exploded during the coronavirus pandemic but is here to stay. Allowing someone to record themselves will benefit both the candidate and the hiring manager, as they can do it in their own time.

David said that a lot of work went into getting the interview process right for our client. Competency interviews were ruled out as irrelevant, with situational judgement questions assessing how a candidate would react in a certain scenario favoured.

On the experience day, potential candidates got to speak to the person doing the interview and were told what the process would be like. They were given the option to be interviewed on Teams, on the telephone or do it on-site.

“It’s about creating as many options as possible to be as inclusive as possible through that process,” David said. 

  • Onboarding: 

Allowing people to be their authentic selves throughout onboarding is essential to the overall recruitment process.

Attracting and employing diverse candidates is one thing, making them feel welcome as part of your organisation is another.

Part of this process involves allowing reasonable adjustments. For example, if someone doesn’t want to, or is unable to, travel during rush hour are they able to start and finish later?

David said we had encouraged our client to adopt a high-touch approach, being available to help and advise candidates at every stage of the onboarding process.

This included support with the pre-employment vetting process, as well as the provision of days where people could meet the team they were going to be working with.

The client also provided support around people’s different responsibilities, such as by allowing carers to start later, and introduced a scheme where employees could bank flexible days to deal with life admin as and when they needed to.  

  • Ongoing management: 

This part of the process is often forgotten but is hugely important. Losing new employees because they find they don’t fit into your organisation is not only expensive but can have a negative effect on your brand.

Many organisations work hard to attract diverse candidates, but then neglect to put measures in place to make them feel welcome and settled.

For example, an organisation which brings in people from a variety of different ethnicities may also need to consider if they need to have facilities for a prayer room.

David said our client realised the importance of ongoing management, and his team helped them to put things in place to address any potential issues. For example, the manager taking on the new cohort of workers was given training on age diversity.

It helped that the workforce all joined at the same time, with a mix of people from different backgrounds but who had been through the same inclusive recruitment process starting their working journey together.


The world of work is changing, and the desired requirements sought by employers is shifting with it.

In an organisation like the NHS, used by everybody of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and genders, it is especially important to have a workforce which reflects society as a whole.

Ensuring diversity, equality and equity across the workforce as part of a talent acquisition solution will not only mean the reach for talent is maximised, but that patients are seen by the most suitable people to assess their needs.

Tracey said: “Experience isn’t so important. It’s skills. And its skills-based recruiting and resourcing which we should be doing to make sure we have a completely diverse and inclusive workforce.”  

Equality, diversity, inclusion and belonging has always been important. In recent years there has been a shift to it becoming a key organisational strategy. Learn more about our solution here

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