Employability – How Can Your Organisation Get Involved?

Last reviewed on 16/02/2015 09:50

This section gives information about the agencies that exist to help employers reach, and work with, priority Employability groups, and some suggestions on how you can start addressing Employability issues within your organisation.

Quick links:

Making employment accessible – good practice guidelines for employers

Working with local employability agencies

There is a broad range of agencies that support people back into work. The role of these agencies is to support unemployed people to look at ways they can overcome barriers to employment so they can have an equal chance in the labour market.

The largest of these support agencies is Jobcentre Plus.

There are a number of different ways your organisation and your staff can support people back to work and become involved with local employability agencies. The nature of your involvement will depend on your particular area of work, how much time you are able to invest and staff interests.

back to top

Examples of supportive pre-employment activities

There are a number of barriers (e.g. lack of recent work experience and awareness of employer’s expectations) that employability agencies can do little to address, but which could be effectively worked through with input from an employer.

Below is a summary of some of these types of activities and their benefits to employers and clients:

  • Job Preparation Skills. This involves staff helping people to look at what preparing for work involves, supporting their CV writing and interview techniques, conducting mock interviews and giving feedback.
  • Benefits to Employer: opportunity for staff members to improve and develop communication and presentation skills; greater engagement with the local community.
  • Benefits for Clients: opportunity to learn skills that are important to find a job; developing an understanding of what employers are looking for, and the skills that they consider important.
  • Motivational talks. These involve a range of employed people coming to talk about how they got to where they are today, the challenges and rewards they encounter, and the importance of employability skills.
  • Benefits to Employer: professional development opportunity for staff to develop training skills, opportunity to ensure that potential employees are equipped with relevant skills.
  • Benefits for Clients: increased understanding of the types of job opportunities that are available in local businesses.
  • Work Placement/Job Shadowing. Providing the opportunity for individual clients to gain experience and see what actually goes on in work on a day-to-day basis.
  • Benefits to Employer: introduction to client group; opportunity to get to know individual clients; opportunity for staff members to develop supervisory and training skills.
  • Benefits for Clients: opportunity to gain real work experience; developing new skills and knowledge; gaining experience of work routines and expectations.

The employability option of the Healthy Working Lives Award identifies employer involvement in pre-employment activity as a key method of meeting the of the Award's employability criterion.

back to top

Jobcentre Plus (JC+)

JC+ is the national provider of back to work support and welfare benefits, and a key partner of the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives.

They operate their own employment support services through their advisers, as well as overseeing different employability programmes such as New Deal, Work Step and Pathfinders.

These programmes are often awarded as contracts to other employability services who act as sub-contactors.

JC+ also collaborates with businesses around the UK through its Local Employment Partnerships.

The employability option of the Healthy Working Lives Award identifies advertising vacancies at JC+, and accepting referrals from JC+ as a good method of meeting the employability criterion of the award.

back to top

Making employment accessible – good practice guidelines for employers

Work trials

Offering a work trial can be a very effective way for employers to assess the skills of a potential new employee on a practical basis.

It can also provide individuals with the opportunity to demonstrate their work skills in practice and the chance to decide if the job is the right one for them.

JC+ has a work trial programme that provides employers and job candidates a trial period of employment for up to 15 days at no cost to the employer and with no loss of benefit for the individual.

Work trials can be useful when an employer:

  • is new to engaging with people from priority groups
  • is unsure about making a long term commitment to employing a particular candidate.
  • wants to be able to assess if a candidate’s skills and experience are a good match to the job.

To find out more about work trials in your area, contact your local Jobcentre Plus (external link).

back to top

How to write job descriptions and person specifications

Job descriptions and person specifications are a useful tool both for potential applicants and for employers.

However, it is important that that the information on them does not unnecessarily exclude people:

Only include requirements that are essential to the job
For example, insist on a full driving licence only if there are no alternative means of transport that could be used.

Rank criteria in order of importance
A clear distinction should also be made between requirements that are essential aspects of the job and those that are less important.

Identify skills which can be developed ‘on the job’
A distinction should be made between skills that are a prerequisite and those that can be developed once someone is in post.

Consider adjustments that would enable people to work more effectively
This could mean offering flexible or part-time working hours, providing additional training, or reassigning tasks that could easily be done by other people.

Specify what needs to be done rather than how
People with disabilities, for example, may already have developed alternative ways to accomplish common tasks, but may be discouraged from applying if you prescribe specific ways of working in application materials.

back to top

How to advertise vacancies

Many small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) rely on informal methods such as word of mouth to advertise vacancies.

This means that the information is less likely to reach priority employability groups.

Develop links with employability agencies working with priority groups

JC+ is able to reach a wide range of people, and also provides a range of support and advice to employers through programmes such as Disability Services for Employers, Access to Work, Work Trials and New Deal.

Local employability projects may also be able to advertise vacancies to different priority groups and provide appropriate support and advice.

Use a range of sources to place advertising material

As well as the Jobcentre, place advertising material in local newspapers, notice boards and shop windows.

Use clearly worded advertisements

Use plain, direct language and avoid jargon and abbreviations.

Provide a variety of means of responding to advertisements

Applicants should be able to respond using the method they feel most comfortable with. For example, someone with a hearing impairment may not be able to use the telephone, but would be able to respond by letter or email.

Give a clear message about encouraging a wide range of applicants

For example: 'We welcome enquiries from everyone and value diversity in our workplace.'

back to top

Application forms

Employers need to ensure that the application forms they use do not create unnecessary barriers for people wanting to apply for vacancies:

Ensure that application forms are clearly laid out and provide guidance notes

Only ask for information that is needed to select the right person for the job, and provide notes on how to complete the form.

Provide application information in a variety of formats

Applicants should be able to request application forms and any accompanying information in a variety of formats such as large print, audio tape or CD, email and Braille. Some people may find it easiest to complete an application form over the telephone.

Allow references from a range of sources

Many people from priority groups may not have worked for a long period of time and as such may find it difficult to provide a reference from a former employer. Consider allowing references from support workers, training providers and personal character referees.

Provide opportunities for applicants to tell you about experience gained from a range of activities

Applicants should be given the opportunity to describe experience gained from activities other than paid employment, such as voluntary or unpaid work, work placements and life experience. This will provide a much more complete picture of the applicant’s skills and experience.

Make sure applicants are able to tell you about any adjustments needed for interview

The Equality Act 2010 requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process to ensure that disabled people are able to participate equally.

Application forms should allow applicants to tell you about any particular requirements they may have when attending an interview, such as wheelchair accessible venue or communication support.

Detailed information about making reasonable adjustments can be viewed at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (external link).

back to top

Shortlisting and interviews

Your shortlisting and interview processes should be non-discriminatory and should take account of the need to make reasonable adjustments to enable some people to work effectively:

Treat all applications in the same way

Applications that are submitted in alternative formats should be treated in exactly the same way as those in a standard format.

Judge applicants on their ability to do the job

Judge applicants against the requirements of the job description and person specification and take into account any reasonable adjustments that could be made.

Don’t ask for irrelevant information

Applicants should not be asked for information about health problems or disabilities that are not relevant to the job.

Don’t make assumptions about an applicant’s ability

Instead, interviewers should ask the person to tell them about their qualities and limitations. This will help identify any adjustments that might need to be made in order for them to be able to work effectively.

Allow more time for the interview, if necessary

Be prepared to allow more time for the interview, as some applicants may need more time to be able to answer all the questions.

Allow applicants to bring a support person to the interview

The role of a support person is not to answer on behalf of the applicant, but rather to help them communicate effectively and ensure that they are able to present themselves to the best of their ability.

back to top

Inductions and employee support

Starting a new job can be a stressful experience, particularly for those who have been out of the labour market for some time. Providing support to employees during the early stages of employment can make a real difference to a person’s ability to sustain employment.

Make sure that induction covers all the key elements of working practice
A structured and planned induction process helps new employees to understand their role and to feel comfortable within the organisation.

Key elements include:

  • introduction to work colleagues
  • standard working practices, such as time sheets, working hours, flexitime, overtime, etc.
  • who is responsible for providing support and guidance
  • who to go to with any problems and difficulties
  • health and safety and emergency procedures
  • training needed to be able to carry out tasks effectively and safely
  • company policies and procedures, such as holidays, sickness, equal opportunities, etc.

Give information about an employee’s needs to all relevant people

Information about an employee’s needs and any adjustment required should be given to managers, supervisors and work colleagues where appropriate. However, you should not disclose any details about a person’s history or difficulties without the agreement of the individual concerned.

Allow more time for induction and training

Consider extending the induction process to allow an employee to really get to grips with their role and responsibilities. Ensure that employees are provided with the training they need to do the job effectively. In some circumstances, this may need to be provided over a longer period of time than normal.

back to top

Further information on employability

If you are an employer who is interested in getting involved with Employability, please email Maree Drury or call our Adviceline on 0800 019 2211.

Joined up for Jobs Directory(external link) A searchable database of organisations offering support and opportunities for people seeking work in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

back to top