ELGIN PHARMACEUTICAL: Strategy for Hiring Childcare Workers
While many organizations are facing great difficulty in attracting and retaining competent employees due to skilled-labour shortages (Lievens et al., 2002), Elgin Pharmaceutical (EP) has been proactive in the knowledge-intensive pharmaceutical industry. Having chosen to follow the high road in its HRM practices, the company is considered to be ‘an employer of choice’. The company’s most recent action to improve its reputation is its plan to establish a company crèche and child development centre (C&CDC) for the children of its staff; premises have already been acquired and equipped to a high standard.
As Elgin’s Senior Human Resource Manager, I was asked by the CEO to propose suitable strategies for the recruitment and selection of exceptional C&CDC staff. As the reputation of the company is of more importance than the cost, the company would need to employ people with superior qualities. As well as being highly qualified, the staff employed would need to be very caring people with a passion for children and their development.
This report, therefore, offers an holistic review of many factors related to this recruitment process. Before continuing, it must be borne in mind that the company will be recruiting people from this sector for the first time and lacks the required expertise. Therefore, industry practitioners, care recruitment agencies and academic literature were widely consulted for the analysis and recommendations made in this document.
ANALYSIS OF RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION (R&S) TECHNIQUES and RELATED FACTORS
The Pharmaceutical Industry and the Nature of its Labour Market
- Pharmaceutical companies have been facing tough competition from employers in other industries in terms of recruiting and retaining talented people. This is expected to be severe during the next two decades (Delany 2001).
- Although pharmaceutical companies have been largely successful in attracting and retaining their people (Burrows 2004), it seems that the best way to cope with this challenge would be to encourage women to join the labour force and develop creative rewards for them to do so.
The Importance of Childcare in a Tight Labour Market
- In recent years, childcare has become a necessity for millions of families because of the growing participation in the labour force of mothers with young children. Employer-subsidised childcare is envisaged as being an effective tool in attracting women to the labour market (Blau & Robins 1988; Chambers 1992).
- Chambers (1992) suggests that maternity leave, high-quality and affordable child-care facilities and flexible working hours are some of the ways that companies can use to attract and retain career-and-family women.
Why Childcare for Elgin?
About 70 per cent of the Elgin staff comprises women. Of these, a considerable number are working mothers who may choose to leave their careers in order to raise their children. The C&CDC programme may be the magnet that encourages them to persist in their careers.
Strategic and Operational Benefits
- Employer branding of Elgin would be tremendously enhanced and the company would be clearly identified, both within and outside the company, as a distinguished and desirable employer. C&CDC would add ‘value proposition’ to the brand power of the company which, in turn, would positively affect current employees’ engagement (Backhaus & Tikoo 2004).
- It would help Elgin to move away from being merely a provider of work-life balance opportunities to being the leader in offering family friendly practices (FFPs) to help employees alleviate the conflict between work and family roles. Organisations with FFPs are considered to be more attractive than those with no such practices (Bourhis & Mekkaoui 2010).
- Recruitment and retention of female employees are expected to have a positive effect (Kossek & Nichol 1992) which would secure Elgin’s investment in their development.
- The company would be able to attract a wider pool of job applicants in the future as childcare benefits are known to influence the job choices of the majority of women (Thompson & Aspinwall 2009).
- The company’s total reward package would become more tailored to the needs of its employees, further strengthening its best HRM practices reputation and the benefits linked with these (Pfeffer 1994).
The Childcare Industry
- UK’s childcare industry poses challenges in terms of recruitment and retention because of a feminised workforce, government regulations and public-private competition (Carroll et al., 2008).
- Despite the rapid growth of childcare as a result of an increasing number of working parents and Government’s National Childcare Strategy, the industry still faces a diminishing pool of labour from which to recruit (Rolfe et al., 2003). This is shaped by the exclusion of men from the recruitment pool, low qualifications of childcare workers, which results in their changing to different careers, and the growing academic achievements of women, which make women more in demand in other professions like education and healthcare (Simon et al., 2003).
- Although it was anticipated that the recent recession and Elgin’s positive reputation would attract a large pool of candidates, it must not be forgotten that a high proportion of employers are still facing recruitment difficulties. This is despite a dramatic decrease in the number of vacancies (CIPD 2009).
HR Personnel Planning
Until now, only the number of staff expected to be hired has been determined by Elgin, in view of its legal obligations. These are:
- Four vacancies for the nursery or crèche: for ten 0-1-year-old babies.
- Seven vacancies for the pre-school or child development centre: for 20 two- to four-year-olds.
Total vacancies for C&CDC: 11
The plan is to establish a nursery that will focus on providing care facilities, such as a crèche, and a pre-school that will focus on child education and development. In terms of this plan, the nursery would require only nursery nurses so that the focus would be on the care of the infants. The child development centre would require both pre-school teachers and nursery nurses to focus on both the care of the children and their education.
After quantifying the number of vacancies, the next step is to figure out the hierarchical or reporting system. The following options could be considered:
- Run the nursery without a head. This would be impractical and create chaos.
- Without adding to the head-count, nominate one person as supervisor both for the nursery and pre-school from the staff we are going to recruit. Apart from her normal duties, this person would have the additional responsibilities of supervision of the C&CDC and reporting to the management. The other staff of the C&CDC would report to her. This option would clarify the reporting hierarchy and would work effectively if the nursery and pre-school were in one place.
- In line with the above suggestion, one such person for the nursery and one for the pre-school could be nominated. This option will be more practical if the nursery and pre-school were in different places. However both option (ii) and option (iii) would require revision of the remuneration package of the proposed supervisor.
- Make an existing operational head responsible for directly overseeing the C&CDC with the intention of developing one or two persons from within the C&CDC staff who would be able to run it independently in the future.
- Finally, a C&CDC manager could be hired in addition to the planned staff immediately or in future. Two such mangers could be hired, one for the nursery and one for the pre-school.
Before initiating the R&S process, a job analysis is necessary to help in the development of job descriptions and personnel specifications for childcare staff; this, in turn, would affect our choice of R&S techniques. In the past, job analysis has been criticised for being too job-focused and competency frameworks have emerged as an alternative. These focus on the person and the related characteristics needed for superior performance in a job. Whether we choose job analysis or a competency framework, the fact is that childcare jobs are novel for us and we require external help for their analysis (Taylor 2008).
Another point which needs to be established before moving on is the level of qualification and experience we require for the C&CDC staff. The following could be worked out:
- We may need two NVQ Level-3 or 2 qualified nurses and NVQ Level-3 qualified pre-school teachers with good experience. This would ensure the highest standard of care and the employees would be satisfied that their children were with the best professionals. The implications would be high costs.
- On the other hand, we may employ a mix of good and average people in terms of their qualifications and experience in line with the prevailing care industry standard. This would be cost efficient with some compromise on quality.
Possible Recruitment Techniques
Elgin does not rely on any specific recruitment method; therefore, we have to consider a few relevant recruitment options in order to assess their appropriateness.
- Advertisements: If we opt for advertising, a number of decisions have to be made with regard to the following:
- Advertisement location: Do we want to place our advertisement in local or national newspapers or in related professional journals or magazines?
- Advertisement style: want advertisements seek for a wide trawl by advertising the corporate image along with the job details; blind advertisements are the same as want advertisements without identifying the employer; writing advertisements are written narrowly, and seek a wide net (Werther & Davis 1996).
- The choice has to be made between positive advertisements which unashamedly create an exciting image of the job while witholding any drawbacks and realistic advertisements which list all aspects of the job; this may discourage excellent candidates from responding (Taylor 2008).
- Recruitment advertisements with precise information tend to generate large responses but may result in existing employees comparing their packages with the advertisement. On the other hand, advertisements with vague information are advisable only in extreme cases as they are known to result in lower response rates (De Witte 1989).
- Corporate Websites: Elgin’s corporate website can be used for recruitment as this would be operationally cheap and provide plenty of space for an advertisement tailored to our requirements. But the process might be similar to factory-gate advertisements or notices posted by retailers in their own stores – people have to be passing by in order to see them. However, corporate websites are considered viable for employers with strong reputations.
- Care Recruitment Agencies: Our unfamiliarity with the childcare labour market makes care agencies a good option as outsourcing will minimise the recruitment time and the resulting administrative burden. However this approach might prove expensive in terms of an hourly fee or the lump-sum payment normally charged by such agencies.
- Media: Although advertisements on television and radio are very appealing in terms of a company’s corporate image, the cost is very high. As we are not anticipating difficulties in generating a considerable pool of applicants, the cost may not be justified.
- Staff Referrals: These can be considered because the employees are stakeholders in our C&CDC programme and they would definitely recommend good childcare workers who they know personally. On the other hand, the quality of referrals cannot be guaranteed as the referee may be influenced by emotion rather than making an objective judgement. Moreover, we would need to establish a formal employee referral scheme before its implementation.
- Word of Mouth: This is probably the cheapest option and, in our case, may work well if used internally. Employees would love to spread information about the job to the best potential candidates as it would be in their best interest. Quality, again, might be the issue.
Possible Selection Techniques
The selection tools currently being used by Elgin are:
- Semi-structured Interviews: Our interview process is somewhat structured and allows the interviewer to concentrate on listening, recording and assessing the responses of the candidate while making him/her feel comfortable. Although this technique relies largely on the expertise of the interviewer, it is appropriate for our business model and the type of people we have to recruit. This approach, however, may not be suitable for interviewing childcare workers as we lack functional expertise.
- Mental Ability Tests: Mental ability or intelligence tests supplement the interviews at Elgin. These tests have been identified as being useful for determining the competence of those employed in a specific sector at Elgin. These are the majority of employees. The organisation has developed expertise in conducting them after years of experience. The recruitment in question is for people employed in the service sector, very few of whom have thus far been employed at Elgin. Consequently, a different form of mental ability test would need to be introduced to adequately identify those most suitable for the job.
Some other available selection options:
- Structured Interviews: Although structured interviews, especially behavioural or competency based interviews, are an effective predictor of performance (Appendix-I) and are perceived to be relevant, thorough and meaningful by the candidates, they cannot be implemented without proper training and experience.
- Assessment Centres: These are methodical, avoid over reliance on a single technique and are considered to be highest predictors of performance (Roberts 2005) (Appendix-I). They are also time consuming and costly.
The following can be inferred from the above discussion:
- Elgin operates in the knowledge-intensive pharmaceutical industry and developing C&CDC is consistent with the best HRM practices relevant to this industry.
- C&CDC is linked to the retention of working mothers and would have several other strategic and operational benefits for Elgin. Therefore, the R&S process should be careful and thorough in order to achieve these objectives.
- UK’s childcare industry is part of a difficult labour market if we decide to hire qualified and experienced people.
- The jobs are novel for Elgin; therefore external support is necessary for job analysis, recruitment and selection.
- Reporting systems and the required level of qualification and experience need to be established before actually implementing the recruitment process.
- A number of relevant recruitment options are available to choose from but whatever option the company selects, it should market what it is doing to boost the company’s reputation as a strong employer brand.
- Although certain selection methods are being used by Elgin, these are probably more suitable for filling routine positions than hiring people from the service sector.
The benefits of the C&CDC can be viewed as internal marketing of Elgin’s brand that would help in the creation of a workforce difficult for other companies to imitate. Our recommendations given below are based on this guiding principle. Appendix-II details an action plan for incorporating these recommendations.
- As hiring from this sector is new for us and requires industry-specific expertise, an expert from the care industry should be employed to help us in the recruitment process. Outsourcing recruitment to a care agency would definitely make us more relaxed but would reduce our chances of understanding the care industry. The consultant will provide excellent learning opportunities and in the future, Elgin’s HR would be able to handle similar recruitment independently, saving costs in the long run.
C&CDC Staff Reporting Structure
- For the C&CDC reporting structure, it is recommended that the Head of Compensation and Benefits should be given the extra charge of taking care of the C&CDC project for at least six months, allowing ample time for consolidation.
- It is not advisable to start with a large head-count at inception in terms of both cost and operational efficiency. It is therefore suggested that two persons should be nominated, one from the nursery and other from the pre-school, within the approved staff complement, to act as Nursery Officer and Pre-school Leader. Their packages would be revised after the probation period. The reason for having two persons is because of the contrasting characteristics of nursery and pre-school. These persons could be identified during the selection process.
- Later on, when we are sure about the actual number of children we should have in our C&CDC, additional staff could be employed accordingly.
C&CDC Staff Level of Qualification and Experience
- No compromise will be accepted as the quality of care staff would be crucial in providing excellent care service. Nursery nurses should have NVQ Level-3 or 2 qualifications with at least two years of relevant experience while pre-school teachers should have NVQ Level-3 qualification with at least three years of relevant experience.
- Competency frameworks are recommended as the competency profiles (see Appendix-III for a sample) developed through this process can be used to measure the innate passion and caring qualities of the candidates during the interview. These aspects are vital along with the qualifications. The consultant will help us in developing competency frameworks for nursery nurses and pre-school teachers.
- Careful recruitment and selection is necessary for the C&CDC as turnover could raise concern about its continuity, giving a bad impression to the employees using this service. Therefore, we suggest an advanced ‘classic trio’ (Cook 1993) supplemented with technology.
- Advertising in a local daily newspaper is recommended for two reasons: to attract applicants and to consolidate Elgin’s brand (Taylor 2008). As the company is leading the industry in providing childcare benefits, it should not miss any opportunity of external marketing that would help in establishing it further as an employer of choice. Advertising in a newspaper is a cost effective way of doing this as well as attracting suitable candidates.
- An attention-grabbing advertisement is necessary to attract potential candidates because of the tight labour market. Therefore, a want ad style is suggested that boosts corporate image; this is known to have the most powerful direct effect on applicant quantity and quality (Collins & Hans 2004). Consistent with our objectives, the advertisement should be positive and fairly precise. The resulting wide-trawl should be converted into a wide-net by providing a link to Elgin’s corporate website where relevant and precise information is to be provided about the job. The candidates will have to fill in a structured online application form and provide detailed references along with consent for enhanced disclosure through CRB. The data obtained will be structured and help in online sifting.
- Word of mouth through employees is also recommended because it’s a free source of publicity and employees will spread word of the vacancies because it would be in their own best interest.
- Bearing in mind the suitability, resource and cost constraints, effectiveness and acceptability (Roberts 2005), online personality testing and competency-based structured interviews are recommended for the selection process. Both methods hold the highest predictive power after the assessment centres.
- An online personality test of 15-20 minutes (Appendix-IV) is recommended as this has unique predictive power beyond that which ability tests can supply (Wood & Payne 1998). The candidate will do the test immediately after completing the online application form. Personality testing is essential for two reasons: to measure candidates’ personality-job conflicts and to avoid issues related to child abuse.
- It is recommended that competency-based structured interviews be adopted in order to ensure required performance level as the candidate’s competence for the job can be evaluated. The presence of a consultant will eliminate the requirement of training. HR will conduct the interviews jointly with the consultant after brief training.
- References and enhanced disclosure through CRB should be considered mandatory and it is recommended that these are carried out before the process of short-listing candidates to ensure protection of employees’ children.
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