Once for Scotland - Transforming NHS Scotland's Recruitment Funnel


This feature first appeared in Hr NETWORK Magazine in March 2021. In the time since then, Jobtrain has partnered with NHS Blood & Transplant and NHS Property Services to deliver an applicant tracking system specifically for the NHS!

In 2018 NHS Scotland set out an ambitious plan, under the title 'Once for Scotland'. The goal was to unite many of the recruitment processes and services that support all 22 Health Boards across the country. A huge task when you consider this is an organisation that employs around 170,000 people and is amongst the largest employers in the UK.

Against a backdrop of traditional 'silos' where Boards are naturally encouraged to look after their own population needs, the notion of delivering a 'one size fits all' solution across Scotland seemed unrealistically ambitious!

So why do it? What was hoping to be achieved? And, importantly did they achieve their goals?

At the start of the project and as part of the Pre-Qualification process for tenders, NHSS set out a number of goals that the project - and the successful supplier had to meet:

  1. Enable a high quality, standardised HR function across NHS Scotland
  2. Improve NHS Scotland candidate recruitment
  3. Improve end manager's recruitment experience
  4. Contribute to completion of the eESS Programme (The Oracle based HR system)
  5. Act as an enabler for HR Shared Services Recruitment

So who was appointed — and why?

Neil Warbrick, Programme Director with NHS Scotland explains:

"We were looking for supplier who would act more as a partner. We felt we needed to balance the capability of the system we chose with the capability to work effectively with NHSS in delivering our specific needs"

After a demanding tender process, the decision therefore was made to work with Jobtrain, the ATS (applicant tracking software) provider who is based in South Manchester, but who also have an office in Glasgow.

In 2020, like no year before, the need to attract staff and then recruit them with increased urgency was under great scrutiny.


Neil continued: "The presentation and bid that Jobtrain put together was one that delivered good value, and they appeared to have a system that delivered all the functionality we needed. But more than that, we wanted a supplier who understood and specialised in the recruitment market, demonstrated continual improvement and focus on candidate experience, and challenged us to think beyond current practices and processes."

Two years after the first Board went live, and a full year after the final Board moved onto the new recruitment system, an evaluation report was undertaken by the National Project team to see what goals had been met. The story is a positive one!

Aside from the five main goals outlined earlier, all of which mere achieved, there are some other measures that probably deserve a mention:

In 2020, like no year before, the need to attract staff and then recruit them with increased urgency was under great scrutiny. Against this unforeseen demand, the introduction of a new system may have been seen as barrier. But the reality was far from that; in the
12 months from November 2019 to November 2020, the NHSS saw a phenomenal 250% increase in applications. Even more impressive was the ability to manage these greater
volumes with even greater efficiency - this is evidenced by the time to hire dropping by 31% over that same period. That saved nearly a month per hire!

With adverts attracting an incredible two million views over just a three-month period and the NHSS processing around 870,000 applications during that time, it really was a success story that NHS Scotland are proud to share.

So what lessons were learnt?

With a transformation project of such size and complexity, surely all was not plain sailing and there were lessons learnt along the way?

"Absolutely!" says Neil Warbrick. Neil went on: "Whilst we are delighted with the achievements so far, we certainly had to adapt along the way and internal communications was something that we constantly had to manage to ensure all 22 Boards were all travelling on the journey together. We also created an internal team that managed the processes and standards that everyone could agree to. That team proved critical to the delivery of the project"

Chris Keeling, CEO at Jobtrain Ltd concurred with Neil's comments. Chris said:

"Communication was certainly critical, as was our understanding and realisation that the sheer size of the NHS meant that we couldn't simply make adjustments at will.

What we learnt to do was to plan every single minor change to ensure it was agreed upon, captured in the Standards document and reflected in the training material. In that sense it was the classic case of the devil being in the detail and that was a relentless part of the project and continues to be."

Was it worth it?

Anne MacPherson, the national HRD lead for recruitment and the Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the
largest single Board in Scotland employing around 40,000 in its own right, was a key figure in sponsoring the project at a National level and in ensuring it delivered genuine
added value to the NHS and the candidate experience.

In response to the review of progress against the original goals, Anne said:

"l am delighted with the progress that we have made in a collegiate way across NHS Scotland in implementing so effectively, what was a complex change programme. Jobtrain has to be given credit for that; in particular the way in which they responded to our needs.

Our timeframe for change was ambitious, but Jobtrain delivered everything we initially had within our specification and also demonstrated that they were a valuable partner in listening to all the Boards; that proved crucial in ensuring they delivered what we needed".

Chris Keeling, concluded:

"Winning the NHS Scotland contract was fantastic for us - it gave us the opportunity to work with an organisation such as the NHS in Scotland, that everyone feels passionate about.

I spent 7 years of my early career working in the NHS and that knowledge helped with our understanding of the needs of the organisation and the challenges that needed to be overcome. We are thrilled with the success the partnership has delivered so far, but we are keen to continue to deliver even more in the next 12 months and subsequent years"

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