People Management: How to recruit care service managers

Karen Croan, human resources director for Quarriers

Many recruitment difficulties are the result of public misperceptions.

Voluntary sector organisations that deliver care services are increasingly gaining recognition as they take on areas previously provided by the public sector. However, the recruitment of middle managers who are key to the growth and development of these services remains particularly problematic.

One of the main contributing factors is a lack of knowledge among the wider public about the many career opportunities available within the sector. This is aggravated by the fact that at some Scottish universities, job vacancies within the not-for-profit sector are categorised as 'voluntary' positions, which creates the impression that it is unpaid work. The disparity between public and voluntary sector salaries can also be initially unhelpful in attracting applicants of a high calibre.

Quarriers provides support and care for adults and children with a physical or learning disability, for children and families facing poverty, family breakdown, exclusion and disadvantage, and for young people with social, emotional or behavioural difficulties.

We employ more than 1,500 people, who are all committed to making a real difference to people's lives. It is essential that our vacancies are highly visible to people who are looking for meaningful, worthwhile work, so we are liaising with the new Voluntary Sector Social Services Workforce Unit (Third Sector, 18 May) to target schools, colleges and careers advisers as the gatekeepers to future employees.

We are also part of an informal coalition of eight social care organisations that is separately lobbying the Scottish Executive.

We want to secure a government initiative to boost recruitment, such as the recently introduced employment pledges for teachers and nurses that guarantees them a one-year paid placement after qualifying.

Such assistance would be a positive signal and begin to address the inequality of centrally provided funding to the different sectors, particularly given the number of services that transfer to the voluntary sector through partnerships and sub-contracting.

There are also relatively simple moves being pursued, like placing adverts in the general section rather than the voluntary section of newspapers, and recruitment incentives for newly qualified teachers. The subsequent improvement in applicant responses proves that much of the recruitment difficulties lie in people's perception of the sector.

While recruitment is often an issue, retention is much less so, because the sector tends to enjoy high levels of job satisfaction.

But Quarriers acknowledges the importance of allowing employees to develop, to improve retention and also to help take the organisation forward. A cornerstone of this strategy is our training and education department that has a team dedicated to Scottish Vocational Qualifications.

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