Workshop: Personal trainer

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo)

Q: We are London-based and have major recruitment problems. Should we introduce a London weighting?

A: No. I think "London weighting" is an old fashioned approach more suited to the public sector. But it sounds as if you need to review your salary levels. And, just as important, you should review conditions of service and other benefits.

I know from my members that recruitment and retention are some of their biggest problems. It is particularly acute in service-delivery charities where we compete with the public and private sectors.

Our problem is compounded by the short-termism of funders' grants and contracts. And let us not even go down the route of central and local government's failure to honour full-cost recovery.

Our motto must be "professional pay for professional jobs". If we are to be fully effective in providing services to our clients and users, then we have to look at salary levels and new ways of attracting and keeping staff.

Of course, in our sector we are never going to be able to pay the really top rates that you find in the public and, certainly, the private sector.

Nor should we. On the other hand, it is high time we put away the hair shirts!

Don't just look at pay, think laterally. Pay attention to the various terms and conditions attached to the job. Look at the job design and ways you can provide greater flexibility. Have a good look at your annual leave policy. Make sure you are as generous as you can be on any contribution you make to a stakeholder pension. Do you offer the potential for sabbaticals or secondments, or time off for development? Do you pay course fees? Do you support gym membership?

You also need to look at how you recruit. An excellent report published by the City Parochial Foundation, Valuing Potential, calls for organisations to "fish in different pools" and "use different rods" in order to broaden the numbers of potential recruits.

Do you make full use of job agencies? There are a number specifically for our sector. How good are your efforts at encouraging diversity? Do you try to attract graduates, say through university milk rounds? Are your job ads boring?

So, as well as looking at salaries, you should have a root-and-branch review of how you recruit, the packages you offer and the way you recruit and retain. Your organisation needs to stand out as a "good employer", which will attract good people to you.

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