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Just the job

The award-winning MyJobScotland public sector jobsite and application-tracking system was conceived as an easy way to save money, but has proved valuable in many different ways. PSE talks to the man in charge, Douglas Shirlaw, digital projects director at COSLA (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities).


ust a few short years ago, job advertising and applications for local government jobs

in Scotland were overwhelmingly paper-based. They were expensive and time-consuming for councils to handle, and candidates were often frustrated at the lack of contact. They were lucky to even get their application acknowledged.

Douglas Shirlaw was involved in developing a

Why the public sector must adopt social media to stay ahead

Matthew Parker, CEO of Lumesse, which helped COSLA build the site, said: “The combination of a damaged reputation and the slow uptake of new technologies has hampered the [public] sector’s attempts to reach and recruit the very best, but there remains a great opportunity to focus on these emerging

communication and

technology services to meet the rising expectations of today’s candidates.

“The public sector has traditionally been slow to adopt disruptive technologies such as cloud computing and social media, instead choosing to err on the side of caution to avoid the accidental leak of sensitive data. A recent report by GovDelivery, a UK Government think tank, suggested that only half of council employees could access social media through their work computer.

“Comparatively the uptake of social media by the private sector has been fast and enthusiastic. The public sector cannot ignore the use and reach of these interactive networks for recruitment and should instead regard them as important channels through which to communicate with potential employees. Linking social media networks to media-rich, tailored career portals will be crucial to helping the public sector use technology to facilitate engagement with a wider community much more effi ciently and in real-time. This technology also enables an organisation to appear more modern and relevant to prospective talent.

“COSLA’s MyJobScotland is an excellent example of how one public sector organisation is already leading the way with this.”

new jobs portal, which began life around fi ve years ago as a Society of Personnel Directors Scotland idea, and which has completely changed all that.

He said: “Before we started down this road, we did some focus groups asking candidates what they thought of local government jobs. It was quite enlightening to fi nd that people still believed it was ‘jobs for the boys’. Many didn’t have a good experience applying.”

For those involved in the creation of MyJobScotland, it was all about cashable savings. Shirlaw explained: “At that time, I don’t think they were thinking about how technology could help; it was more about saving money – the millions being spent on advertising in the press.”

But it developed beyond being just an online jobs noticeboard into a fully-fl edged end-to- end application-tracking system.

“It was at that point the councils started to prick up their ears. An applicant-tracking system handles the whole process, from the original advert to managing the candidate right the way through to contract stage. It was a diffi cult concept for them to understand, but with 32 organisations approaching this ‘one site’ idea, they quickly realised that the deals they were getting with their existing suppliers should actually be shared.

“It was the small organisations that benefi ted most, because they didn’t have anything to start off with. By seeing the effi ciency savings the smaller ones were making, that prompted the bigger councils to either get on board with the site, or dump their existing systems and join us.”

Candidates benefi ted too, with it being far easier to track their application and get email updates.

After the front end of the site was relaunched in 2011, to improve the design and interface, the site won a UK Public Sector Digital Award in early 2012. It has also been further enhanced with a smartphone app.

The savings speak for themselves: Shirlaw says

spending on job advertising and application handling was around £16m in 2005/6, but is now closer to £2m. In West Lothian alone, the fi gure is thought to have come down from about £500,000 a year to just £10,000.

Since last year, Scotland’s fi re and rescue services have been involved too. Shirlaw is now looking to get more police and NHS involvement, and especially wants the Scottish Government to see the potential benefi ts.

He said: “They did fund it initially, so it’s strange they haven’t come knocking on my door: it’s been up to me to knock on theirs.”

MyJobScotland is part of a wider public sector trend of using technology to improve talent management, recruitment and retention. Shirlaw pointed to Aberdeenshire council, which set up its own recruitment agency that uses social media and online searches to fi ll senior appointments – it’s reduced recruitment advertising from £1.3m a year to £150,000 and cut agency spend by £2m.

Shirlaw also praised Sunderland City Council’s Dave Rippon and that council’s SWITCH redeployment programme – Rippon discussed the initiative in the May/June 2012 edition of PSE. Shirlaw said: “It’s a fantastic idea, and something the private sector should be learning from.”

In the September/October 2012 PSE, Rebecca Davis of West Midlands Councils explains how its jobs portal has saved millions and raised the profi le of public sector jobs.


public sector executive Jul/Aug 12 | 61

Douglas Shirlaw

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