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“Priority” hiring program paying off for HOBAN

This article has been reproduced with permission of Shortlist.net.au

Hoban Recruitment’s award-winning priority hiring program is beating the talent crunch and delivering fair, barrier-free recruitment, says CEO Alison Watts.

The company set up its pathways to employment program to ensure the team was recruiting from the whole of the community, “and that our procedures are fair and easily accessible for everybody”, she tells Shortlist.

The process is also barrier-free, Watts adds, noting recruiters tend to “forget about that” part.

“I mean we forget that if someone’s been out of work for two or three years, they actually lack confidence. So the pathways to employment program has been set up to get people into a routine of coming to work and, most importantly, build their confidence.”

In developing its framework Hoban spoke extensively to the Australian Network on Disability, becoming accredited in the organisation’s ‘disability confident recruiter program’ in 2019.

As part of that accreditation, the company made sure its website was fully accessible and in line with best-practice web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG).

“That involved a number of updates to our website, which was really valuable, and we pretty much looked at everything that we were doing – we updated our reference checking process, and even simple things like when somebody applies, we’re talking to them about their best method for communication,” Watts says.

“It’s about making little adjustments that are very straightforward, that literally change people’s lives.”

And it’s ensuring that recruiters are giving the best service to all talent, “despite the fact that we are getting quite sizeable numbers of applications and people coming through to us”.

The reaction from her team has been extremely positive, Watts says. “We created working groups to work through our procedures… and we created champions of our ‘priority personnel program’ who are able to educate other team members.”

And every new starter, in all roles, goes through the disability confident recruiter program, she says.

“It’s also given our internal team a sense of accomplishment because they recognise that what they’re doing is inclusive and they are offering pportunities to people.”

Going “gangbusters”

The priority personnel program has been a huge success for Hoban, with the company taking home Seek’s award for best diversity, equity and inclusion initiative at the recent SARAs.

“So far 235 people with disability have been placed in employment by Hoban in the last two years,” Watts says.

And more than 1,400 people who regarded themselves as priority personnel have come through the program, including a lot of long-term unemployed people, she adds.

Many start as temp placements and go on to permanent employment, with clients “really embracing it”, Watts says.

“It’s a very easy, straightforward pathway if they want to bring people in as a temporary staff member through Hoban.”

One long-time distribution industry client, for example, was keen to get its own inclusive program started, so it sought the company’s help.

“It’s brought us closer together because we’ve worked very much in partnership. We’ve had some learnings along the way and we’ve been able to educate their hiring managers in how to work with different people who might have some barriers.”

It’s an approach all recruitment agencies, and employers, should try, Watts says. “It’s really very straightforward and it’ll open up a whole world of opportunities that you might not have known existed.”

And in the current candidate-tight market, the diversity and inclusion initiative has been “a huge plus” for the company, she says.

“We kind of foresaw that it would be, and ensured that we were looking at everybody within the marketplace and removing all barriers to people applying and working with us.”

As a result, business is “booming”, with perm recruitment well over 40% higher than the same time last year, and “really going gangbusters at the moment”, Watts says.

“Permanent placements are a significant part of our business but we’re engaging anywhere around about 3,000 temporary staff on a daily basis as well.”

Beyond recognition for its inclusive practices, Hoban was also named the most innovative agency at the SARAs.

“It was really great to be recognised for the work of our teams and our approach towards innovation. And from Hoban’s perspective, it’s a competitive market and COVID threw so many curveballs to us… so it was really ensuring that we stayed ahead of those and adopted strategies and processes and initiatives that would help us overcome those challenges.”

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