The Ri5 interview: Rob Walker, Mencap, and James Coyle, SMRS

The Ri5 interview: Rob Walker, Mencap, and James Coyle, SMRS


Rob had a personal reason for joining Mencap – both he and his wife have close family members who have a learning disability. 2½ years ago, he saw an opportunity to use his experience to make a difference at Mencap and he took it. And when it came to selecting an agency to partner with, he sensed that same level of passion and commitment in SMRS too. He also felt confident in their ability to shake-up the way they were tackling their resourcing needs. Rob’s keen to disrupt the sector. To set new standards that Mencap can be proud of and that others might follow, believing it can only benefit the adult social care space at large. Here’s an insight as to how, together, they’re going about it.

When did you start working together?

Rob – “It was back in September 2016. We put our business out to tender and invited six agencies to pitch. We then invited two to come in for further discussions. One of which was SMRS. And well, pretty much within just a few hours of SMRS walking out the door, the decision-making panel – which ranged from operations through to marketing, comms, HR – unanimously voted in favour of SMRS.

Why did you select SMRS?

Rob – “It was really because of their willingness to work in partnership and to work with some of our own internal creative people. That and the fact they clearly wanted to understand who we were as an organisation. They'd already done an incredible amount of background research into what our people feel and what they're talking about already. And gave us quite a lot of insight into that, so really it was a no-brainer. I felt as if there was genuinely a passion to work with our charity. Everything was about working in partnership and trying to do the best for us in such a challenging market sector.”

What was it about Mencap that made you want to work with them?

James – “We felt we had a lot to offer Mencap. When we initially met with Rob, and got an idea of the brief, we were hooked – both from a recruitment marketing point of view but also because of the movement that Mencap is. You do feel passionate about the work that you carry out for them.”

What are the challenges you’re facing?

Rob – “We face very similar challenges to anyone else who operates within the adult social care space.  Over three-quarters of the revenue that we receive as an organisation is earnt through the services that we provide. That makes up the vast majority of our employee base. We have over 6,000 people working in direct care. For recruitment to be successful it needs to be extremely quick, extremely fluid. Yet there's an awful lot of vanilla recruitment activity in this sector. And even though our sector is at the lower end of the salary scale, we successfully attract an incredible amount of people. However due to the type of attraction strategy we have in place to accommodate volume, it's sometimes the wrong type of people. We recruit, on average, about 2,000 people a year, just into direct care. One because of attrition, and two because of the nature of the business. New services pop up all the time, old commission services fall away by the wayside. On average we attract eight to ten applications for a position. And with ten in-house recruiters they have to go through some 26,0000 applications. What we would like to see is a lot less applications, but better quality, behaviour and cultural match and of course where the vast majority of them are going to want to stay.”

How are you tackling those challenges?

James – “First there’s the employer brand project that's ongoing at the moment. The first thing we did was talk. We got all the key stakeholders from Mencap in one room with the account team from SMRS and we talked about everything – the challenges in the business, what did they want to see out of the employer brand projects, how we were going to measure it etc. And from there, we scoped out the focus groups we needed to carry out – from the leadership team, to the individual services. We wanted to reach as many people as possible throughout the business, so that when we came to articulate the employer brand, it would be true across the organisation, whether you worked in finance or the front-line.

What did these focus groups tell you?

James – “One of the key things that came out in the research, was that no matter what department you do work in, you're all there for the cause of Mencap. They might have originally joined for a job, but they just get so wrapped up in the movement that Mencap is that they tend to stay because they can see the difference it's making to the service, which then obviously has an impact on the people they're actually supporting.”

What are you working on right now?

James –  “In terms of the employer brand, we’re just fine tuning the chosen creative concept. We're also doing an attraction piece for new services that Mencap is opening up. We know getting support workers is a challenging area, so we've carried out some data insight work to establish what type of people makes 1) a good support worker but 2), a Mencap support worker. Someone who’s going to come into the business and stay for the long-term.  We looked at all the Mencap support workers and put them through quite a few systems, including mosaic profiling. We now have the exact profiles of the type of people we want to go after, right down to their location. So, for hard to recruit into locations, like Selby for example, we have the post code areas from the mosaic profiles that we want to go after, where they're located. And when we go to market with the employer brand messaging, we know exactly where we need to put that message to get through to the right people. Using programmatic advertising should really help home in on those we want to reach.”

Rob – “That’s right. Employer branding for us is not just a brand in terms of some fantastic messages and pretty pictures, it's about identifying those people and places where those people hang about virtually, online. With the help of SMRS, we can attract them before they actually even think about applying for a job. Start that conversation early. And that's one of the things that really, really did interest me personally, with regards to how we'd be able to position Mencap really quite uniquely.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt working with each other so far?

Rob – “In our initial brief, we felt we would have the same employee demographic as other charities. An aging employee population and that 18 to 24 year olds was where it was at, we needed to think about how to attract younger people into Adult Social Care. But the research that SMRS did contradicted that completely.”

James – “Sure. Again, it was part of the data mapping and insight (when we were getting all of the mosaic profiles back). The findings showed that this group was likely to move jobs within 12 months. So, whilst we could easily bring in more people at that age demographic, attrition was going to go through the roof. We've got a bit of a rounded approach now, where we know the keeper audience that we need to go after, but we also know the mosaic profiles of the 18 to 24 year olds that we can tap into. And what messages we should be saying to them, so they can self-filter themselves out.”

Rob – “It's led to us a whole re-look at the way in which we attract at this moment in time. One of our intentions is to move away from job boards, and move even further towards targeted search. It should reduce the volume of applications. And will allow us more time to build earlier relationships,pick up the telephone and actually speak to people and say, "Are you interested in this role?" Then discussing that role in depth over the telephone. We would like to interest people in Mencap long before they’ve even thought about putting their CVs onto CV libraries or looking at job boards”

James – “Exactly. By being in the right sort of forum, we’ll be able to follow potential candidates and if they do click on a banner and come to Mencap’s website and they show an interest by watching the video or by looking at vacancies, we can then re-target them with focussed messages into actually applying for a job. It's just that move away from complete reliance on the job boards, where you're being inundated with the applications.”

Rob – “And it's a much more hands-on approach than what you might think. James and the team are going to be spending a lot of time each and every week either dialling down activity in certain places and dialling it up in others. Financially, we don't have a huge amount to work with, compared to other organisations, and we want to make sure that we get maximum value out of the resources we have available.”

James – ‘That’s the beauty of it. You can switch budgets to different services wherever there's the need.’

And what’s on the horizon?

James –  ‘A lot of what we've been talking about with the programmatic campaign is about attraction. But an employer brand should resonate both externally and internally. We are starting to do a little bit of work on this around the rewards and benefits, just to make sure that candidate journey is consistent. And the same can be said at any stage whether that's through onboarding, induction, the interview process… ideally we'd like it to reflect all of those touch points right the way through to exit interviews.

Has anything surprised you about working with SMRS?

Rob – “One of the things that's been really quite refreshing is that we have potentially put a huge remit of work in front of SMRS. But they’ve not just seen it as a billing opportunity. They’ve offered honest advice  and guided us with regards to what we need to do.  We are going to be continuing to utilise current elements that sit within our existing employer brand portfolio  – we might just have to reassess where it sits within our new employer brand moving forward. Their advice has been really honest.”

Anything else to add?

Rob – “We’ve really got an opportunity here to be a disruptor within our sector. Other organisations will hopefully want to try and emulate what we’re going to be doing. I want Mencap be even more progressive and quite aggressive within the sector. It can only raise the quality of the whole sector. And that’s important as it will positively influence the lives of the people that our sector supports. We want Mencap to be recognised as the  market leader.”


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

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