With thousands of businesses being forced to shut down literally overnight, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was one of the arms of the government critical to supporting those affected by the coronavirus crisis. In the first week of lockdown, DWP received two million claims, while at the same time dealing with high rates of absences within its own workforce.
To add to the challenges, the government then announced it wanted to expand the DWP’s Work Coach scheme to help mitigate the threat of long-term unemployment posed by the pandemic. The department, which usually hires 4,000 new members of staff a year, now had to increase its workforce by 13,500 by March 2021. Not only would it be the biggest recruitment exercise the DWP had ever undergone, it needed to be done fast and in a Covid-secure way.
This is where Shared Services Connected Limited (SSCL) stepped in to create a seamless end-to-end digital approach that included a bespoke applicant tracking system, online testing, pre-recorded interviews and a chatbot to assist candidates with frequently asked questions any time of the day. All of this was centered around an accessible and mobile-enabled microsite designed to attract and engage candidates.
The judges said the asynchronous interviewing “gave flexibility for both candidates and DWP assessors” while also helping to reduce bias, while the project's use of data and analytics allowed SSCL to adjust its processes and the materials available to candidates as they went along. In all, SSCL tracked 152,567 candidate applications across 124 adverts, using real-time analytics to efficiently manage candidate communications and throughput. The team even went as far as to use data from its chatbot to update and improve candidate materials throughout the process.
Not only did SSCL receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from candidates, with 98 per cent reporting a positive experience, the model was also praised by the DWP for saving more than 156,00 hours of management resources and more than 40,000 assessment hours. “The complexity and scale of the project was awe inspiring. A truly impactful project, improving the diversity of their workforce, and freeing up existing staff time,” the judges said. “In crisis mode they opened themselves up to agile working, innovation and data-informed decision-making… [It was] an impressive project that goes against the prevailing narrative of ‘failed public services projects’.”