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Attracting staff

Editor's Note to Readers

Welcome to the fifth edition of Human Capital Matters for 2015—the digest for leaders and practitioners with an interest in human capital and organisational capability. This edition focuses on Attracting Staff.

Human Capital Matters seeks to provide APS leaders and practitioners with easy access to the issues of contemporary importance in public and private sector human capital and organisational capability. It has been designed to provide interested readers with a monthly guide to the national and international ideas that are shaping human capital thinking and practice. The inclusion of articles is aimed at stimulating creative and innovative thinking and does not in any way imply that the Australian Public
Service Commission endorses service providers or policies.

Attracting and recruiting the right people is critical to organisational success. The Australian Public Service Commission has developed an Employee Value Proposition based on the set of attributes that employees perceive as the value they gain through employment in the APS. This is used in the analysis of entry and exit surveys by the Commission and in developing entry and exit survey reports.

The first article by Michelle Wallis et.al addresses the role of branding and industry image. It argues that employer branding has the potential to attract the human capital that best fits an organisation's requirements. It asserts that employer brands communicate the benefits of employment to potential employees.

The second article, provides guidance to managers in the Victorian Public Sector in regard to managing attraction and recruitment activity. While different jurisdictions have different legislation and policy, there are opportunities to learn from different jurisdictions. This material is presented with this in mind.

The third article is an Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government report that presents research findings regarding the attraction and retention of CEOs and senior staff in rural, remote and Indigenous local governments.

The fourth article, Chapter 2 in 'Employee Recruitment, Selection, and Assessment: Contemporary Issues for Theory and Practice' (Ioannis Nikolaou, Janneke K. Oostrom eds.) explores systems, processes, and strategies that are designed to maximise the size and quality of the job applicant pool.

The fifth article is of a practical nature providing a guide to develop an Employee Value Proposition. This has been developed by the Victorian Department of Human Services and is targeted at employees in the Community Sector.

Thank you to those who took the time to provide feedback on earlier editions of Human Capital Matters. Comments, suggestions or questions regarding this publication are always welcome and should be addressed to: humancapitalmatters [at] apsc.gov.au. Readers can also subscribe to the mailing list through this email address.

APS Human Capital Matters: Attracting Staff

Michelle Wallis, Ian Lings, Roslyn Cameron and Neroli Sheldon Attracting and Retaining Staff: The role of branding and industry image in R Harris, T Short (eds) Workforce Development, Springer Science +Business Media (2014)

The article argues the employer branding has the potential to attract the human capital that best fits an organisation's requirements. It alleges that employer brands communicate the benefits of employment to potential employees.

Furthermore, it is argued that the value of an organisation's brand as an employer reflects an employee's beliefs that their employment needs will be met by their employer.

The authors assert that employers who have 'high employer brand value' are more attractive as employers than employers who have 'low employer brand value'. A potential employee's appraisal of an employer brand is influenced by factors such as their awareness and perceptions of the employer brand which may have developed by word of mouth, personal experience and marketing strategies. Employer branding is a synthesis of marketing practices and recruitment practices.

Employer branding is not something that employers undertake independently of their business activities or in isolation of their employees. Stakeholders are part of inadvertent and planned branding which encompasses the use of symbolism, behaviours and communication activities. The corporate brand is a promise provided to the stakeholders by the organisation. As such there is a need to match expectations. The value proposition statement is developed and marketed to potential and existing employees.

Organisations with a strong employer brand show:

  • high recognition and positive image in the labour market
  • adherence to the promises of the psychological contract
  • unique and economic and symbolic features that are valuable to potential employees
  • accurate differentiation as an employer
  • stable policies and activities for positioning the labour market in the company.

Research indicates that employees prefer working in a particular industry based on the products or services offered or by the preferred tasks.

Attracting and retaining the 'right sort' of people with the required skills mix is a combination of the branding proposition and a range of recruitment, selection, and performance management strategies.

Dr Michelle Wallis is an Associate Professor of Human Resources in the Business School at the Southern Cross University. Dr Ian Lings is Professor and Head of School at Queensland University of Technology Business School. Dr Roslyn Cameron is a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the School of Business and Law, Central Queensland University. Neroli Sheldon has a Masters of Human Resources and Organisational Development and has worked over the past 20 years in private and public sectors in private and public sectors in management and training and development roles.

Editor's Note to Readers

Victorian Public Sector Commission (2015), Managing attraction and recruitment activity in the Victorian Public Sector

This article provides guidance to managers in the Victorian Public Sector in regard to managing attraction and recruitment activity. While different jurisdictions have different legislation and policy, there are opportunities to learn from different jurisdictions. This material is presented with this in mind.

The foundations for strong staff performance, and a manager's ability to succeed in their role, is enhanced significantly through the manager's ability to attract and recruit the right people—people who will be able to contribute to the current and evolving needs of the work and the organisation.

An important development focus here is on ensuring managers have accurate knowledge of the employment principles and guidelines so that they can lead attraction and recruitment processes.

Another important development focus is on designing and conducting attraction and recruitment activities that attract applications from competitive candidates who meet the requirements of the role. To assist with the design and implementation of effective and efficient attraction and recruitment processes, the Victorian Public Sector Commission has published the Best Practice Recruitment and Selection Toolkit (and two-day training workshop) together with Recruitment Myths and Facts.

Other resources include:

Editor's Note to Readers

Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (2014), Attraction and Retention of CEOs and Senior Staff in Rural-Remote and Indigenous Local Governments

The paper reports findings on research that has been undertaken to identify how rural-remote and Indigenous councils (RRI councils) can improve their ability to attract and retain CEOs and senior staff to their councils. This research has been undertaken in response to a national survey of RRI CEOs undertaken by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) and the Queensland division of Local Government Managers Australia (LGMA) in 2012 which identified this as a major issue.

The key issues identified in the research are:

  • Not all RRI councils are the same. Many face different challenges depending on their location (e.g. mining areas, extreme remoteness, Indigenous communities etc.). These differences are reinforced through the various legislative frameworks of the states and territories that, to varying extents, specify the terms of recruitment and management of CEOs and senior staff (see Appendix 1 for details of relevant legislation).
  • Attracting staff to remote regions is not just a local government, issue but is a challenge for many industries.
  • Working in RRI communities can be a very rewarding professional experience.
  • The decision to move to a RRI region is often a family decision, not just an individual decision by the applicant. As such, the recruitment process needs to focus on including partners in that process when relevant. Similarly, retention rates are increased when the families of the CEO or senior staff are successfully integrated into the local community lifestyle.
  • One of the most important elements of a salary package to attract CEOs and senior staff to RRI councils is good quality housing.
  • The retention of CEOs is strongly linked to a successful mayor/CEO relationship and job satisfaction.
  • There is a lack of positive, structured performance management of CEOs and senior staff.

This report includes practical examples on how to improve:

1. Attraction – examples of best practice are provided with details on how to include partners in the recruitment process and how to identify different potential market segments to attract the best field of candidates.  Although it is only the employee who is being formally recruited, it is normally a family decision as to whether or not to move to a RRI area. Therefore, interviewees stressed the importance of making CEO and senior staff families comfortable in the RRI region. There are a number of different approaches as to how this is handled, but all have common elements, in particular with regards to involving the partner at some point in the recruitment process. Examples of different approaches to involving the partner in the recruitment process include:

  • ensuring that the candidate and candidate's partner both visit the council area as the final step in the recruitment process
  • providing both the candidate and candidate's partner a council vehicle to explore the area
  • providing an opportunity for the candidate's partner to meet other council staff partners and ask questions about living in that locality
  • identifying other employment opportunities in the locality for the candidate's partner if desired.

2. Retention – practical ways of improving job satisfaction to increase retention rates are identified, together with consideration of the CEO/mayor relationship. Simple but effective techniques to integrate families into RRI communities are also explained.

3. Performance Management – sample performance management plans have been developed to simplify the process for mayors and councillors to undertake CEO performance planning and reviews. This will assist in developing shared expectations of performance and key priorities.

This report is supplemented by a practical 'How to Guide' which has been specifically prepared for mayors and councillors to provide them with tools to improve recruitment practices, increase retention rates and better manage performance planning for CEOs and senior staff at RRI councils.

Brett de Chastel is the principle of de Chastel and Associates – a specialist local government consultancy business based at Noosa, Queensland. Phillip Stark is a senior consultant at de Chastel and Associates. Phillip has over 30 years of practical local government experience including 7 years as a CEO.

Editor's Note to Readers

Derek S. Chapman and David Mayers (2015) Recruitment processes and organisational attraction, Chapter 2 in 'Employee Recruitment, Selection, and Assessment: Contemporary Issues for Theory and Practice' Ioannis Nikolaou, Janneke K. Oostrom, Psychology Press

This chapter focuses on systems, processes, and strategies that are designed to maximise the size and quality of the job applicant pool.

The authors report research findings that demonstrate that employers who focus their recruitment advertisements on fulfilling applicant's needs and attracted more and better qualified candidates than those that focused on requirements of the job. Minor changes in job advertisement wording related to employee fit was found to have an up to 23% increase in the effectiveness of real job advertisements. Increasingly, researchers are identifying the role of possible selves in applicant attraction. Using organisational image, it has been found that applicants' perceptions of congruence between actual and ideal self-images increased organisational attraction.

Advertising relatively high pay can increase the size of the applicant pool, however, it is not clear if this affects the quality of the applicant pool. A high-pay strategy can also be easily copied by competitors leading to escalating pay for skilled employees.

The authors assert that there has been little research examining universal attractants of job applicants. It is argued that employee attraction is complex. What attracts one employee will not attract another.

Furthermore, the authors argue that it remains unclear which organisational characteristics drive perceptions of organisational image at various stages of the recruitment phase. Job applicants are likely to have incomplete information before they start working for the organisation. The authors assert that according to signalling theory, the organisational image is important at all stages of the recruitment cycle.

The authors refer to several studies that have found a direct relationship between organisation culture and applicant attraction, concluding that organisational attractiveness may benefit from a culture that reflects support rather than competitiveness.

Understanding person organisation fit is also important because it is related to a range of post-hire factors including job satisfaction, organisational commitment, turnover intentions and eventual turnover. It is argued that organisations will benefit by developing recruitment programs that provide information about the fit between potential job applicants and the organisation. Care should be taken to identify meaningful dimensions on which potential applicants evaluate their fit with the organisation.

The authors also assert that organisations should also consider what their employees are seeking in an attractive location and try to establish facilities in areas that provide those needs.

The authors argue that the traits of those doing the recruitment also influence outcomes. Friendly recruiters signal to potential employees that the company is a warm and welcoming place to work.

Preliminary research into employer branding demonstrates that employer branding can have a small but significant impact on employee attraction. However, the authors note that there is much more work to be done on how to leverage brand equity in the recruiting context.

Technology including the growth in social media has transformed the recruitment function.

In regard to online recruitment, website design seems to be an important determinant of applicant attraction. The online medium also creates the potential to include video employee testimonials which have been found to be effective recruitment tools.

The authors note that recent research demonstrates that applicants tend to see a company's use of social media in screening and
selection of applicants as an invasion of privacy.

The authors recommend that more research be undertaken in the newer recruitment techniques such as social media, employer branding, strategies such as head hunting, and statistical analysis.

Editor's Note to Readers

Victorian Department of Human Services, State Government of Victoria, funded agency channel (2012) Employee Value Propositions for Community Services Organisations

An Employee Value Proposition (EVP) communicates what an organisation has to offer potential employees. It can be used as a foundation for creating promotional messages in staff recruitment and retention activities.

The guide introduces the EVP matrix. This is a tool to help clarify aspects of working in the sector. It also encourages thinking about Core EVP attractors at various life stages.

An EVP needs to be reviewed from time to time to ensure that it remains current. This can be done by surveying new employees to build an evidence database to inform periodic reviews.

Editor's Note to Readers

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018