Throughout the year, we spoke with some of the fantastic people we hired for our social care clients, whose stories were featured in the likes of the Daily Mirror, The Guardian, and BBC Radio Four Woman’s Hour. As we welcome 2019, our Talent Director, Dave Beesley, reflects on how stories can inform recruitment for the year ahead.

Meet Darren…

Darren had never worked in care before, and after a lifetime working in factories, warehouses and gardens, he found himself out of work. A visit to a care event held by Cohesion at a local job centre opened Darren’s eyes to the world of care, and since then he hasn’t looked back.

You don’t need to scrutinise statistics to realise that the sector struggles to recruit males. Traditionally care has attracted more women – but our data is painting a different picture when it comes to new applications.

A review of some 26,000 applications found that 40% of applications to our social care vacancies were made by men in contrast to the current 20% makeup of males working within the sector. I suspect it won’t be too long before the percentage of male applications further increases, yet a higher percentage of men drop out of the recruitment process currently in comparison to female applicants. Will this continue if we don’t adapt our processes?

Hiring managers need to be well-equipped to make sound decisions at interview stages. Make sure interviewers know about gender bias and how to avoid it. Arm them with the tools to assess fairly – creating positive and negative indicators for answers given in response to interview questions.

We gave candidates access to videos of other carers, both male and female, describing the role and what to expect. Feedback suggested that candidates found it useful to hear from male employees, and that seeing other men working in a caring role was refreshing.

We also looked at career websites and whether imagery and wording might turn off male candidates. Pictures and videos of both men and women demonstrates greater gender diversity in your teams, and it’s worth checking out some of the nifty gender bias tools available online that allow you to check advert wording for neutrality.


Meet Jenny…

Jenny is in her 80s and loves her role as a Care Assistant. Her career in care spans decades and her story is both inspiring and humbling – as she describes experiencing racism in her early career, and coping with end of life care. There are Jenny’s out there who would thrive given the opportunity to care in a work capacity but don’t think to apply. This needs to change – and it starts with recruitment.

Be accessible during the recruitment process. Candidates are used to online application forms and communicating via email and text messages – but we find that candidates like the ability to pick up the phone to recruiters and talk. It sounds simple but giving applicants the option to chat about their motivations for applying and transferable skills is far more telling than a CV or application form.

Ask yourself whether you’re being too rigid with shift patterns. Some people need to start slightly later in the day or don’t feel comfortable travelling home late at night – but they’ll make excellent carers. In Jenny’s case, she’s opted for night work – and that works for her and the home she works in. Flexibility can be important to all ages, so make sure this is reflected in your rota scheduling when considering new applicants.


Meet Mutsa…

Within the same BBC Four Woman’s Hour interview with Jenny, we also hear from Mutsa, a young Healthcare Assistant who has been inspired to become a Nurse, following in the footsteps of some of her relatives. Mutsa’s friends ask her how she can relate with older people with dementia, or deal with intimate personal care, but Mutsa is not put off – and like Jenny, she loves her job.

The care sector could be much better at engaging with young people. Organisations have been recruiting early talent as part of placement, apprenticeship and graduate programmes for many years – so how do they do it well?

Consider three audiences; the educators, the student, and the parents or guardians. Engage with schools and colleges in your communities by holding career information sessions for students and teachers – or better still invite them in to see it for themselves. Sessions should be engaging and inspiring so think about how you can interact with younger people and excite them about the work and the career pathways available.

Your website is your shop window and requires dressing well, with face to face engagement at careers events just as important. Placements and work experience are great for future proofing your workforce. Offering a taster of the different opportunities available in care will result in a good percentage returning to your organisation later down the line. Parents and guardians are huge influencers on career decisions from an early age. Invite them to your career sessions and answer their questions too.

Listening to the stories of the people we recruit has been a useful exercise – and we’ll continue to listen in 2019. Not only do the stories inspire our recruiters to find the most compassionate people for the care homes and services we recruit for – but they also inform how we can recruit in the most effective way.


Cohesion would like to wish our clients and candidates, as well as all those dedicating their time to working in care a prosperous year ahead.

The Social Care sector is a growing industry within the UK, with 1.47 million people employed each year, and of course the demand for care and support continues to grow. However, despite the number of vacancies in social care increasing, so is the number of care workers looking to leave their jobs.

SkillsForCare estimates that around 390,000 people leave their jobs every year – that’s over 1,000 every day – and there are approximately 110,000 vacancies at any one time. According to research, this is because working conditions remain “chronically poor” within the sector.

According to The UK Social Workers: Working Conditions and Wellbeing by Social Workers Union (SWU) and the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) research, almost two- thirds (61%) of social work practitioners and managers surveyed were looking to leave their current position in the next 16 months.

Why people leave?

Unfortunately, there are several factors that people who work in Care encounter, that then result them into wanting to leave. In Community Cares’ study of over 3,000 social workers, they found high workloads and a lack of resources to help service users were the main stressors contributing to poor working conditions.

Other common factors as to why people leave their jobs in the social care sector are:

  • Rising Stress
  • ‘Lonely and dispiriting’
  • Working through illness

When staff leave:

In their June 2017 Report, SkillsForCare highlight that three in ten employers don’t find out what their employees plan to do after leaving their organisation. Amongst those who do ask, their leavers were roughly split between those going to work for other social care employers (53%) and those going to work in other sectors (47%).

When asked if they knew why employees had left their organisation employers who collected this information said the most common reasons given were:

  • Personal reasons (30%)
  • Career development (21%)
  • Retirement (12%)
  • Pay (11%)
  • The Nature of the work (6%)

Focussing on retention?

With more and more people seeming to want to leave the sector, this calls for something to be done about it.

Meaning that we need to increase the size and skills of the adult social care workforce by stemming the flow of wasted resources on recruiting people who aren’t going to stay in the sector.

In the SkillsForCare June 2017 report on Recruitment and retention in adult social care they highlight that retaining good staff is vital to the success of any organisation, but especially so in the delivery of adult social care services where continuity of personalised car and support is crucial for the people who need care and support.

If employers find it difficult to retain employers, SkillsForCare detail ways in which they can create a positive workplace that will encourage staff to stay for longer.

  • Reviewing workplace culture.
  • Investing in the organisational values.
  • Celebrating achievements.
  • Involving and engaging all colleagues in decision making.
  • Using CQC reports as a catalyst for improvement.
  • Offering opportunities for career progress

How can recruitment help?

Values based recruitment

Taking a values-based approach to recruitment may be part of the answer. In recruitment the idea but what really matters are the values and behaviors of the individual. By taking this approach this will help you get the right people to work in your organisation who will have an understanding what it means to provide high quality care and support and are more likely to stay.

Hiring Manager training

The hiring manager is a key member of your employee recruitment team. Implementing training could benefit not only the employee who is in the role but the overall business.

Retention Interviews

Retention interviews help identify and reinforce the factor that might drive an employee to stay. They are a great way of finding out what’s working well in your business and what might not be working so well and can also result in the identification of any issues that may cause your employee to consider leaving.

Engagement in recruitment process

By engaging with someone from the beginning of the process, you are able to make sure that their journey is a good one.  Engagement starts at the point a person has their first interaction with your organisation and making sure it’s a positive interaction. What someone hears, reads and the information they are asked all have an impact on their opinion of you and your business.  Another way for you to understand what is important to your employees is listening to what they have to say.

Understanding the reasons – helps prevent future leavers

Alongside preventing people from wanting to leave their jobs, its also important to have an understanding as to WHY employees leave.

Here are a few suggestions to help you find out:

The difference between Exit and Retention Interviews is who they’re conducted with. Retentions will be the new-starters, whilst Exits will be with recent leavers of your organisation. Despite having their own merits, they both allow you to make more employee- centered business decisions.

Exit Interviews

With a massive skills shortage across sectors, it’s no surprise that talented people in your organisations are being headhunted. The key to success is consistency.

Here are some themes your exit interview questions could follow if you want to gather actionable data:

  • Reason for Leaving – asking them their main reason for leaving and questioning what they least enjoyed about the role and any other factors that influenced them to leave the role.
  • What would’ve made them stay – find out what you could’ve done to keep them and what improvement could be made to avoid future joiners leaving for the same reasons.
  • Where are they going now – Are they staying in the industry? Would they consider re-employment with us in the future? Show interest in their new role.

Retention Interviews

Here are some themes your retention interview questions could follow:

  • Rating your Recruitment – finding out how they found the recruitment process and if there was enough communication during the onboarding.
  • Support & Training – have your employers been receiving adequate training to carry out their role? Do they feel like they have enough support? Ask these questions!
  • Opportunities for Growth & Development – understand the potential opportunities that allow your employee to develop both in and beyond their role and discuss what they most enjoy about their role.
  • Suggestions for Future Joiners – finding out if they have any suggestions they would like to make for any future joiners so that they are able to settle comfortably.

Our next event in early 2019 will examine the same theme discussed in this blog post – “Why employees stay with your Care organisation.”

This event will include commentary and analysis of our own data from 100s of Retention interviews of Care Workers, helping you to understand why employees stay with your organisations such as your own.

And our guest speaker Neil Eastwood of Sticky People will present about what care organisations can do to prevent employees from leaving.

If this sounds like something you would like to attend, then please register your interest here and we will get back to you to confirm the details.

So, your team have spent countless hours and resources recruiting into a role. You’ve had to go back out to market for a role you’ve had hundreds of applications for before.

You may begin to group your candidates together in your Applicant Tracking System – but, you can’t always dip into it and find an easy fill. Shouldn’t that be how talent pools work?

Shouldn’t I be able to fill roles quickly using candidates I’ve kept in my talent pools?

Despite popular belief – having a bunch of previous applicants or data-mined candidates does not always constitute a talent pool, let alone a fruitful one. Bear in mind, there are a lot of different factors that can contribute to either the success or failure of your talent pools.

For quite some time now, talent pools have allowed HR teams and recruiters alike the ability to recruit effectively and efficiently, without having to invest tonnes of resource into it. So, without a shadow of a doubt – if you aren’t leveraging the recruiting power of talent pools, they could be the most effective recruiting tactic you’re ignoring.

First things first – what are talent pools?

Talent pools are shortlists of candidates that aren’t currently being considered for a role by your organisation (they’re not technically applicants). They may be previous applicants that didn’t fit the role they applied for, or you may have found them via other means.

If you really think about it, the majority of the population could be your talent pool. Which, technically, is correct. However, it would be an impressive feat to be in consistent communication with that many people…

It’s important to remember that talent pools don’t always need to contain candidates that match up for current vacancies. Instead, they’ll be candidates that you want to keep an eye on for the future.

Therefore – effective talent pooling is an efficient way for recruiters to maintain a constant flow of candidates into your business.

But, what strategies can you and your team implement to begin building effective talent pools?

  • Engaging Unsuccessful Applicants

Just because a candidate wasn’t suitable for a role they applied for previously, doesn’t mean they aren’t suitable for your company at all. These candidates who have already shown significant interest in your company by applying are ideal for your talent pool. 

In the UK, each vacancy receives a tonne of applications. That leaves plenty of unsuccessful candidates that, if you’re not careful, might not show interest in working for you again. But, you’d like to think that at least a handful of candidates who aren’t suitable for the role they initially apply for might be relevant for your company in the future, right?

Think about it – all of these candidates have been assessed against your indicators and company values. So, you understand their competency and have already invested a significant amount of resource into them to find that out. Why not try and get the most out of them?

If you really want to begin building talent pools of previous candidates – it’s important to keep interview notes, interviewer feedback and information around why they weren’t hired for the role. All of this information is talent pool gold, because it helps you and your team decide who is truly relevant.

  • Careers Fairs & Events

Investing time and resource into recruitment events and careers fairs is a great way to build your employer brand, whilst attracting top talent to your company and familiarizing them with exactly who you are.

Events take a lot of planning, because there’s a lot going on. It can be hard to manage and nurture all of the candidates that register and attend. Usually, it’s a case of getting candidates to sign their details onto a spreadsheet, for them to be sent the occasional email blast with ‘Current Vacancies’ in hope of generating a few extra applications somewhere.

Talent pools are a far more effective way of tracking these candidates, and keeping tabs on them.

One of the most difficult things in recruitment is determining ROI. As hard as it may be to believe – talent pools make it easier to determine the return you see. How, you may ask?

A strong Applicant Tracking System is to recruitment, as Google Analytics is to marketing. It allows you to track where your visitors, or applicants, come from, and whether or not they end up applying. Through it, you can determine how successful each of your recruitment endeavours is.

If you already have a bunch of spreadsheets from events with hundreds of candidates’ details, it’s usually pretty simple to import them into your ATS to begin managing your talent pools more effectively.

  • Internal Talent Pools

Recruiting is both expensive AND challenging, especially if you’re looking to hire for more senior roles. So, being able to turn to a pool of internal candidates can be a big time and cost saver.

So, why are internal talent pools better than looking externally?

Well – your recruitment team will already have a strong understanding of candidates’ competencies, while the candidate already has an idea of the role and the requirements of working for the company. Also, you can be confident in the fact that your internal candidates will be a good cultural fit for your business.

Promote your open roles to your internal talent pools in a similar way to how you would for external candidates. More often than not, internal candidates can be dissuaded from showing real interest in a role when they’re forced to apply.

Adopting a similar marketing approach for internal candidates as you have for external candidates will result in far more internal applications, and more effective succession planning.

  • Company Leavers

When people leave your company – it’s often not forever. In fact, from the thousands of exit and retention interviews we’ve completed for our clients – more often than not, leavers would be interested in returning at some point down the line. So, what do we do for our clients when leavers tell us that?

Correct – we put them into a talent pool. But, how do we get them there?

Exit interviews are perfect for building a talent pool of previous employees who would consider re-employment with your company in the future. Conduct the interview with each of your leavers, and ask them whether or not they’d be interested in hearing about future opportunities. If they say ‘Yes’ – put them in your talent pool.

It’s a simple way of building talent pools of candidates who already know what it’s like to work for your company. That’s invaluable in recruitment.

  • Networking

Networking isn’t just something that should be left up to the sales team – it’s very much a powerful recruitment tool, too.

This method is, arguably, one of the most effective, because it often results in a lot of referrals. Which, according to RecruiterBox, means that you’re more likely to retain your new hires – with companies finding that referred employees are 23% less likely to quit than other hires.

Your brightest and best employees should proactively network and engage with talented employees in similar roles or with the desirable, transferable skills that are required to succeed in your industry.


To conclude – building effective and efficient talent pools is only one part of what constitutes a successful recruitment strategy. Alone, they won’t work as effectively. However, when combined with effective attraction strategies, consistent and appropriate engagement, and seamless onboarding – your talent pools should be concomitant, and basically fill themselves.

Every year, companies invest tonnes of resource into building their employer brand.

Why? Because your employer brand is the cornerstone of your reputation as an employer. It’s very much a candidate-driven market, so you’re competing with other organisations for the same pool of talent.

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors? How do you stand out amongst the crowd?

Simple – your employer brand.

As defined by the CIPD, your employer brand is:

“…a set of attributes and qualities, often intangible, that makes an organisation distinctive, promises a particular kind of employment experience, and appeals to those who will thrive and perform best in its culture.”

Ultimately, it boils down to how you position yourself as an ‘employer of choice’, amongst your competitors and the pool of candidates. Contrary to popular belief – it’s not all about how big you are as a company. It’s not about how successful you are, or how much money you make. It’s entirely about how your employees feel working for you.

According to Glassdoor – 69% of candidates would not take a job with a business that had a bad reputation.

It’s quite clear how important your employer brand is, especially in generating the greatest return possible for your recruitment endeavours. But, what mistakes could you be making that are damaging your employer brand?

  • Not understanding, or trying to understand, where you’re going wrong

Nothing is perfect, and mistakes will always be made. To save yourself from making the same mistakes over and over again – you need to understand exactly where you’re going wrong. Is there something wrong with your recruitment process? Do your management team require any additional management training?

At what point, in an employee’s experience with your brand, do things go wrong?

Finding this out is simple, and resolving the issues will work wonders for your employee turnover, experience, and employer brand. However, it does require some additional investment of resource.

Solution: Exit and Retention Interviews

It’s simple, isn’t it? If you don’t understand what’s going wrong – ask. The very people who are experiencing what’s wrong are your employees, and they’re the ones you should be asking.

Implementing an exit and retention interview solution is the perfect method for finding out what you need to know. The following questions could form the basis of your solution, and help you really get to the bottom of any employee issues your business suffers from:

  • What do you enjoy about your role with us?
  • Is there anything you would change about the role?
  • What was your main reason for leaving our business?
  • What could we have done differently to have made you stay?
  • What advice would you give us to make future joiners more comfortable?

Use the information these questions give you to improve your recruitment process.

  • Your candidates don’t feel respected or valued, particularly if they don’t get the job

Regardless of what happens – it’s important to make sure your candidates’ experiences are always positive, respectful and fair.

Understandably – you can’t offer every applicant a job. Candidates know that, they understand it, and they respect it. You not offering them the role they applied for isn’t what damages your employer brand.

It’s how you do it. Also, in most instances – it’s whether or not you actually do it.

Think about it – candidates apply for a role with your company. They get through a couple of the initial pre-screening stages, after which your recruiters determine they aren’t suitable to continue through the process. You let all of them, regardless of how many there are, know the outcome – right?

Sadly – most companies don’t. Completely cutting your candidates off without even communicating with them is more damaging to your employer brand than letting them know they haven’t got the job.

Solution: Communication

Solving this issue all boils down to something as simple as communication.

Keep candidates informed throughout the process, from receipt of their application, through to the final decision your recruitment team make. There’s nothing more nerve-wracking for a candidate than waiting to hear back from an employer about a role you applied for.

There’s nothing worse than waiting to hear back from an employer, and not hearing anything at all.

There’s also nothing worse for your employer brand than having a bunch of candidates with negative opinions of your company, simply because they didn’t hear anything from you. Even if your communication is letting the candidates know they’ve not been successful – they’ll appreciate it a lot more than being left in the dark.

If you’d like to go the extra mile – offer candidates the opportunity to call your team to receive detailed feedback on their performance, and give them advice on where they went wrong and how they can improve it for next time.

  • Your company has a weak online presence, and you’re difficult to find

It’s common knowledge that, nowadays, all of your potential candidates will be researching your company, and trying to find out as much as they possibly can. Why? Every bit of information they find will help inform whether or not they actually want to work for you.

That being said – potential candidates can only find the information if it’s there to be found.

In an environment as competitive as recruitment, especially in some sectors, this lack of information can often be the difference between receiving the application, and not. In that vein – the candidate that doesn’t end up submitting an application may well have been the one who would’ve received the job offer.

With your online presence, it’s not necessarily a case of damaging your employer brand – it’s more that it will never truly materialize.

So, how do you solve this problem?

Solution: Update your Website & Manage your Social Channels

Having a company Facebook page and Twitter account is a good start – but it’s no longer as simple as that. Job seekers and potential candidates expect employers to have built and be maintaining a strong online presence across multiple channels. What does this mean? It means a user-friendly company website and active social media accounts as a bare minimum.

You don’t need to invest hours of marketing and recruitment resource into building your online presence. It all starts with talking about recent company news across your social channels, sharing photos and videos of achievements, and generally showing pride in your brand.

More importantly – engage with potential candidates as often as you can. Respond to their reviews. Ask and answer questions. Share relevant content. Keep them involved in the conversation.


Building a strong employer brand will always make your company more appealing to potential candidates. Something as simple as this can help you compete in the market, and gain the upper hand over your competitors. Whilst it’s simple to build – it’s also just as easy to undo all of your hard work and send yourself back to square one.

To build a believable employer brand – you need to be a good employer. There’s no way to fake it. You need to understand where you’re going wrong, communicate with all of your candidates regardless of the outcome, and get yourself online.

Your employer brand isn’t just a passing trend – it’s something that can, and will, directly affect the success of your recruitment efforts.