Impact Sourcing in the UK – a Q&A with Scott Evans
Sigma Connected is a business with a conscience. And at a time when the number of people in the UK deemed to be living in poverty is soaring amid the cost-of-living crisis – our commitment to recruiting employees through Impact Sourcing is crucial – an initiative that sees the recruitment of individuals who are socially or economically disadvantaged, providing them with additional support to find employment.
In the latest installment of our Q&A series, we sat down with our Director of HR, Scott Evans to chat about how and why we make full use of Impact Sourcing – and the major part it is playing for both the business and communities we recruit from.
Hi Scott, it’s great to sit down and catch up on such an important and ongoing project for us. Can I start by asking why we are so dedicated towards Impact Sourcing?
Scott: It’s important to start by saying that we are hugely committed to Impact Sourcing. It is a socially responsible way for businesses to recruit staff by hiring and providing career development opportunities to people who generally have limited employment prospects.
It’s maybe not widely known but as we speak the UK currently has one of the highest poverty rates in Europe amid a cost-of-living crisis that is seeing people from all walks of life struggling to put food on the table or heat their homes.
The Covid pandemic has also played a big part in changing the employment landscape over the past two years, with many looking for new roles in different industries and sectors.
At Sigma we are committed to doing all we can to supporting people who have found themselves out of work, for whatever reason, at this difficult time economically for the UK, giving them meaningful employment and a chance to develop their skills and careers. We have also been keen to target specific areas of high unemployment, including rural locations, to ensure career opportunities are available to all.
What partners are we working with?
Scott: We are lucky to work with some fantastic organizations who support job seekers ready for recruitment into companies like ours. They include:
- Based in Birmingham, we have been working with BMET for many years. Our partnership helps people who have been out of work for a long time, providing free courses and training, which lead to accredited qualifications, including in Customer Service, which is vital for us given what we do.
- PeoplePlus has teams across the country providing skills training and supporting people back into employment.
- Back To Work. As well as providing support and training for those wishing to get back into work, Back to Work also look at candidates skills on our behalf to find those most suitable for the roles available, before passing them to us for assessment.
The Covid pandemic dramatically changed the working landscape and has led to many more people ditching strict office working routines to work from home. As a result of this more flexible and remote way of working, we have been able to expand our recruitment drive nationwide, working with partners up and down the country to tap into pools of workers we would not have been able to previously.
Currently, 55% of our new employees are recruited through Impact Sourcing and a big focus for us now is to continue to partner with providers who have the same passion for getting people back into work as we do.
How does the recruitment process work with your partners?
Scott: We have initial discussions with our partners to outline the job specification, the requirements of each role, and the type of personal attitude we are looking for from the eligible candidates, and then they send us those who most fit this description.
PeoplePlus and Back To Work both carry out pre-screening of candidates on our behalf and then candidates go to an information and assessment centre to ensure they are right for the role, and that the role is right for them. We take into consideration whether candidates have worked in our industry before and tailor elements of the process as needed to make sure we are let people shine.
The process works slightly differently with those candidates who come through BMET. They get two weeks of Customer Services training through the Job Centre and then come to Sigma for a further three days of on-the-job training prior to an official interview with us.
This gives our training team the chance to work with the candidates directly and build a tailored programme to best prepare them for the interview, whilst giving them chance to actually work in the company, see what Sigma is all about, and how well they can fit in with our company. We let BMET know which specific campaign each candidate will be interviewed for in advance so they can streamline their training and provide a targeted training pack.
What are the benefits of working for Sigma?
Scott: We are proud to offer a variety of working roles and ways of working, meaning people can succeed here, whatever their personal circumstances. A massive draw too many people – particularly following the Covid pandemic which threw the ‘traditional’ office working routine on its head – is the flexibility we offer, meaning those with children can enjoy a fulfilling job whilst still being around for the school run or football practice, for example.
As well as offering competitive salaries, we also provide ongoing training for our workforce and encourage staff to learn new skills to expand their expertise and enable them to seek promotion within the company when the opportunities arise. This has been so successful that 80% of new team leader and above roles were filled through internal promotion.
Sigma’s ethos is built on giving back as much as possible to our workforce – constantly nurturing them, supporting them, and developing their skills to succeed, which benefits both the business and the hundreds of people we have helped back into work. The loyalty works both ways, and as a result, our staff retention rates remain extraordinarily high.
How do you integrate new staff into our Sigma family?
Scott: It is crucial that new members of the Sigma family feel happy in their roles and are sufficiently supported to do their jobs well. We have a number of policies and practices in place to ensure their introduction to the company is a seamless and stress-free one which is particularly important for those people who have joined us through Impact Sourcing.
- During the recruitment process, all candidates get the opportunity to meet with Team Managers online or in person to ask any questions they have about the company or their role.
- Prior to officially starting, each candidate receives ‘Welcome to Sigma’ sessions, which gives them chance to meet other members of their team. This often provides an opportunity for them to find out more about who Sigma really is as a business on a less formal basis, giving them an additional level of comfort.
- A representative from our Employee Engagement Team is present at every induction and training session, to share information about what we do from an engagement perspective and provide details of where they need to go if they require support, as well as providing information on our monthly awards ceremony.
- After training, each candidate goes into ‘Grad Bay’ – which is a further two weeks of training and support (which can be extended if required) to prepare them before they become fully-fledged call agents.
- They also get in-depth Vulnerable Customer training included in the induction. Some of the more difficult conversations may be something our new employees may have also been through themselves, so it’s important they are trained and feel supported. There is also support from Team Managers if needed.
- We have a team of dedicated Mental Health First Aiders available for all of our staff should they require it at any time.
- We have developed our own internal Mental Health Training to raise awareness and to support our Managers in supporting their teams
What opportunities are available to staff when it comes to promotions?
Scott: Not only do we feel passionately about using Impact Sourcing to responsibly recruit people who have found themselves out of work in the current climate, we are also dedicated to ensuring every member of staff can thrive and progress in their careers with us.
All roles that arise are advertised internally to give our staff the chance to strive for promotion if they feel ready for the jump, whilst we run a mentorship programme for people looking to expand their skills in a particular area. The initiative provides staff with specific mentoring from a member of the Senior Management Team to help them develop their skills to achieve a particular career goal within the company.
Our Deputy Team Leader programme has also been successful in identifying ‘rising stars’ within the business, who can ‘throw their hat in the ring’ and highlight their promotion ambitions with Senior Management ahead of jobs being made available.
What does it mean for us to get people back into work?
Scott: It’s an amazing feeling. Getting more people back into employment is core to what we do, knowing we are making a huge difference in people’s lives whilst recruiting a well-skilled and loyal workforce that can continue Sigma’s success.
A job is not just simply about earning money, but we are proud to be able to provide financial security to many people who have found themselves unemployed, whilst giving them the appropriate training to expand their skills and expertise to develop a successful and longstanding career.
Using Impact Sourcing to find and recruit job seekers desperate to find a path back into work after a difficult time has allowed us to give a lifeline to so many, helping to restore their pride and purpose. It is an initiative that has been fully embraced by our company, staff, and clients.
And finally, what is next for Impact Sourcing?
Scott: Impact Sourcing has already made an incredibly positive impact, allowing us to recruit a loyal, hardworking and dedicated workforce – as well as directly benefiting hundreds of people who now find themselves in meaningful employment with the chance to progress and thrive in their careers going forward.
Our four big aims for the future of Impact Sourcing include:
- Maintaining high levels of recruitment through Impact Sourcing in 2022.
- Refining our partnerships. We will be taking a closer look at what works well with the partners we currently work with to establish how we can build on them going forward to have the biggest impact.
- Ensuring our ‘Job Readiness Programme’ is working effectively by working with our L&D Team and our partners to ensure training and recruitment are as bespoke as possible so people who may have been unemployed for a long time or moving to a new industry enjoy as seamless a transition as possible, and;
- To keep building on our Impact Sourcing programme with the aim of maintaining 55% of employees coming through this route as we grow.
Please keep up to date on our website for further news, progress, and success around Impact Sourcing.