Frontline: Each person is different

Frontline reveals the practical steps they are taking to recruit a cohort of trainees that truly reflect the communities they work with.

As a social work charity, Frontline is committed to recruiting a diverse cohort of participants that represent the communities they will be working with on the programme. Frontline trainee social workers spend two years working with one of our partner local authorities in either London and the South East, North West, North East or West Midlands. 

Diversity and inclusion is particularly important in the regions where our partner local authorities are based because they’ll be working with children and families from a variety of different backgrounds. We therefore have a responsibility to ensure that trainee social workers can bring different perspectives and can relate to the families they’ll be working with.

At Frontline, diversity and inclusion means recognising that each person is different and understanding that those differences bring alternative perspectives to a situation. We are acutely aware that there are groups of individuals with certain protected characteristics who can often be underrepresented in employment generally. According to General Social Care Council figures, over 75% of qualified social workers in England are female. We have therefore pinpointed ethnicity and gender as demographic groups we should be concentrating on and have specifically focussed on attracting more BAME and male candidates onto the programme and into social work.

Over the past 4 years, BAME participants on our Graduate Programme has been lower than we would like, which has led us to create a diversity and social mobility strategy. A large part of the strategy is focussed on attracting individuals from BAME backgrounds to apply to the programme.

We have invested in specific online and print advertising with a high viewership of diverse audiences. This approach has allowed us to communicate a more personal message that speaks directly to individuals from diverse backgrounds, and to specifically promote our diversity insight days and our Graduate Programme.

Last year we redesigned our suite of marketing material including our brochure, leaflets and posters which were distributed to potential candidates during the application season. These all included trainee social workers from our 2015 cohort. To ensure BAME individuals could identify with our programme, trainees from diverse backgrounds were a prominent feature of the imagery within our marketing material.

We have also formed partnerships with organisations that focus on diversity within graduate recruitment. We have been able to create greater brand awareness by promoting our programme to high achieving students from diverse backgrounds through organisations such as Bright Networks.

Data from previous seasons shows that BAME candidates were less likely to succeed at online test stage and assessment centre stage. We therefore sought external support from Rare Recruitment who have provided expert coaching to candidates prior to attending our assessment centre to increase their success rate.

Additionally, we introduced our own coaching offer through the selection process for candidates from underrepresented groups. Coaching calls have been developed to encourage candidates to reflect on their own experiences and consider how they will be able to demonstrate the skills and experiences they have in the selection process and more importantly on the programme itself. These coaching calls have resulted in a 20% improvement of BAME candidate performance at the assessment centre stage.

We are also reviewing our entry requirements for candidates looking to apply to the programme to ensure the programme is diverse and inclusive. Additionally, we’re assessing each stage of the application process, including the online tests, to ensure there is correlation between successful tests scores and performance on the programme and that they’re adding value to the process.

The recruitment team and other assessors have taken part in extensive unconscious bias training to ensure we’re doing all we can to achieve equality and fairness for each candidate throughout the selection process.

In 2015 we held our pilot diversity insight day, which saw a dozen interested individuals from underrepresented groups come together to gain a broader understanding of how Frontline is looking to impact society, hear from leaders from the Frontline community, take part in skills sessions and get inspired about pursuing a career that makes a difference. We have since increased the amount of insight day opportunities to give more people the opportunity to get a greater insight into the selection process before the programme opens for applications. In 2016 we held six insight days which attracted nearly 100 attendees and this year we will be running eight with a total of 200 places available.

Using insights gained from AGR’s 2016 diversity survey, we have made a number of changes to our recruitment approach. We have increased our recruitment team which has meant we have been able to visit a wider range of universities. In addition, we have seen an increase in successful candidates from universities such as the University of Sussex (12), University of Kent (8), University of Leicester (5), Northumbria (4), University of Essex (4), which has demonstrated this approach has been successful.

We have created a diversity working group, which has been established to ensure that a progressive diversity and inclusion policy and culture remain a central priority for Frontline. This includes a representative from all internal teams within the organisation as well as individuals from local authority partners we work with. One of the main aims of the group is to address the underrepresentation of men and BAME groups on the Frontline Graduate Programme.

As we continue to grow our internal recruitment team to meet the increasing cohort sizes, we are eager to keep diversity and inclusion at the forefront of our recruitment strategy. This year we will be recruiting someone to the team whose primary focus will be our diversity and inclusion strategy. 

Since 2013, Frontline’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has led to significant improvements in the diverse makeup of the organisation and of the cohort. The strategies mentioned are some of the ways we have sought to make out cohort more diverse and our selection process more inclusive. We are motivated to continue this work moving forward as we look to become a diversity leader in this sector by 2020.