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How digital techniques could aid the search for 20,000 police recruits

9 Oct 2019 By Nicola Sullivan

Using new communication methods can help employers engage hard-to-reach groups, argues Nicola Sullivan

As recruitment drives go, this looks set to be an epic one. Boris Johnson, the prime minister, has directed the Home Office to boost the UK's police force by an extra 20,000 staff, backed by an additional £750m from the Treasury.

This is likely to present some significant challenges for the forces' recruiters, as it would for any organisation faced with the need for a sudden expansion. Being a police officer is a complex and extremely demanding role, meaning the recruitment process must work very hard to find and attract suitable people. Police recruitment is also necessarily a long process because of the need for security checks, which means keeping candidates engaged and avoiding potentially successful recruits from losing interest is a constant issue.

In today’s hyper-competitive labour market, these are challenges that arguably any organisation with high-volume recruitment needs faces. Thankfully though, digital recruitment technologies have developed significantly over the past few years and now offer the possibility of scaling up hiring operations to hit expanded targets, while still maintaining an engaging and rewarding candidate experience. 

Two digital techniques that might resonate well with police forces are online group chats and live video streaming. These communication channels are brilliant at enhancing current processes in a creative way and helping to engage the widest possible audience, including female and BAME candidates who police forces have traditionally struggled to attract. 

One idea might be to hold a series of live chat events for all candidates who have applied, offering useful information to help them negotiate the rest of the recruitment process and demystify the role. This will help boost the confidence of some candidates who might be nervous and who would benefit from having the opportunity to anonymously ask questions or listen into other candidates’ queries. 

For the police, this would also be a good point to facilitate contact between recruits and current police officers, especially those from more diverse communities. By simply offering candidates the opportunity to speak with existing employees with a similar background to them, organisations can experience significant rises in applications from people who otherwise may not have applied.

Once recruits are a little further into the process, the typical familiarisation session, usually held at a police station, could be live video streamed to make it more practical for large numbers of candidates to attend. This could also make it possible for some key influencers of young recruits – friends, family and careers advisers, for example – to take part.

The other useful piece of technology that is becoming increasingly applicable for recruitment is the use of chatbots, either placed on an organisation's website or on an app created for a specific purpose. Chatbots can help field initial queries from candidates – a task that would be difficult for a team of recruiters facing a sudden influx of calls.

These chatbots could also act as 'guides' for candidates throughout the process, helping them to successfully complete the security vetting process, assessments and interviews. This is the kind of tech that we feel can enhance the quality of the candidate experience, while also offering the opportunity to significantly increase recruitment volumes.

Although a sudden need to inflate the workforce might feel like a big ask, the right kind of investment at this stage could lead to a much more inspired and better-informed group of recruits starting work – exactly what our police forces need.

Nicola Sullivan is business development director at Meet & Engage

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