We just told Jeremy Hunt how to make UK hiring truly digital

In the current economic climate, wherever possible we need to take work to the people, not continue the old scenario of the people moving to where the work is.

And fortunately, I think the government is on board -- in so far as getting individuals into work quickly and efficiently is among their key objectives, writes Reed director Keith Rosser, chair of the Better Hiring Institute (BHI).

Not a nice-to-have

One major way to achieve that objective is to realise the potential of the UK labour market by maximising flexible and remote working. So digital hiring isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s crucial.

Moving between jobs must therefore be seamless, fast, and simple. Enabling contractors to move between assignments without friction and lost time means more tax revenues for the Treasury, lower waiting times, and shorter backlogs facing companies trying to replace project mothballs with productivity gains.

Chancellor is in receipt of our 10-point plan

To this end, the BHI has submitted a ‘10-Point Plan’ to chancellor Jeremy Hunt ahead of his Spring Budget 2023 on March 15th, with the unashamedly bold aim of turning UK hiring processes from among the slowest in the developed world, to being the fastest globally. We believe our tech-centric plan fits very nicely with his aim of Britain becoming the “next Silicon Valley.”

The proposals include making the Digital Right To Work system available to all; aligning the system with the DBS digital ID scheme, standardising content requirements all UK job adverts, establishing a taskforce to implement a strategic workforce strategy to address consistent staff shortages, and introducing criminal record check transferability for all job candidates.

We’re not alone in believing a more central role for technology is the future of work and right to work. In fact, last month, former prime minister Sir Tony Blair and Lord Hague joined forces to champion the (not exactly new) idea of a digital identity for every Briton, to help prove right to work; qualifications to get a job and other things like being a passport/driving licence-holder.

Blue-sky thinking, this ain't

But the Blair-Hague plan is just tinkering at the edges. What our 10-Point Plan extolls is a digital hiring reality that does more than just prove credentials, by using open banking data and the latest technology it could verify career histories for employers and agencies, and even replace CVs -- entirely. So one day, school and college-leavers should hopefully have a digital identity that proves their qualifications, right to work, and experience, to allow them to apply for a job in just a few clicks.

This is not blue-sky thinking. In February, the Better Hiring Institute and DCMS (or DSIT -- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, as they have been renamed) co-hosted an event for employers on digital hiring. Speakers included the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS), Home Office, and the minister for digital infrastructure Matt Warman, who referenced the power of digital right to work checks by outlining the positive impact it is had at Reed since August of last year.

So what’s next?

1. Power digital identity

With the government, the BHI  is providing an evidence-base to show how digital identity can drive digital hiring, ranging from open banking for referencing, to digital driving licences for proof of address. No hiring requirements cannot be met this way via digital.

2. Reform the current digital schemes

Following my meeting with Lord Murray in December where changes to digital right to work were tabled to improve inclusivity, I’m pleased to say all proposals were accepted. We are currently working with the DBS to ensure alignment between right to work and criminal record checks. The result will be that contractors can move seamlessly through the process.

3. Cut red tape

A new hiring toolkit for engagers in the care sector, so they can make informed, safer recruitment decisions is only the start. Indeed, the toolkit is going to be the model for similar best-practice guidance for the financial services, construction, healthcare, and education sectors over the next three months. That will give all these sectors the chance to standardise and cut red tape in hiring.

4. Sort out supply chains

Supply chains are where many commercial and self-employed contractors get work. Yet supply chains, especially in healthcare and education, are riddled with conflicting standards, requirements, and interpretations meaning an IT professional at Hospital ‘A’ in February is compliant, but the same professional wanting to start in Hospital ‘B’ in March is not!

The future is (truly) digital hiring...

I have no doubt that truly, fully, digital hiring is on the near horizon, and will ultimately sweep away the old-fashioned methods of recruitment which the UK is still being bogged down by.

It almost has to happen. Right now, we have a perfect storm where the UK needs more people in work, vacancies need filling, productivity needs boosting and efficiency needs improving. Fortunately, we’ve seen progress on digital right to work, digital identity, and criminal record checks.

In a further sign that others want the horizon to be in the rear-view, employer record and recruitment agency Disclosure Scotland has announced their plans for a fully digital process. Qualifications and reference checks are being digitised by the Scottish government body as we speak, and hiring standards are being aligned allowing for broad, strategic change.

What we must obsess about now is how to ensure our future digital hiring is inclusive; has safeguarding hard-wired in, and removes remaining barriers and inefficiencies to work – whether that work is a standard 9-to-5 or a short-term, self-employed contract. If we achieve all of these, we have the chance of the UK assuming a leadership role in how to embrace digital technology for employment purposes, in a way that pays dividends for our professional labour market.

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Written by Keith Rosser

Keith Rosser is a labour market expert with almost 20 years working in hiring. Currently a Group Director at Reed, the UK's largest family-owned recruitment business, and Chair of 2 joint UK government and industry bodies: the Better Hiring Institute and JobsAware.
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