The importance of people versus process: In conversation with Rob Fryer
Rob Fryer is the current Director of Recruitment for Now Teach, a charity that finds and supports career changers into secondary teaching.
Rob has seen the full 360 of the Early Careers market, having headed up student recruitment for Deloitte for over 6 years before moving into the world of Higher Education, starting off as Director of the Career development service before moving into a wider role as Director of Student Life (great job title!). Rob’s experience in the world of student recruitment is extensive and Jayne Cullen, 106’s Early careers consultant, was delighted when he agreed to have a virtual cuppa to share his wealth of experience.
Rob – tell us a little bit more about the premise of Now Teach?
One of our co-founders, Lucy Kellaway, made the transition from journalist with the FT to Business Studies teacher and reflected that there was a gap in advice and guidance for careers changers entering the profession. As such:
- We provide advice, guidance, and information to career changers to enable their smooth transition into teaching.
- During their teacher training we provide a comprehensive programme of wrap around support.
- And connect them with a strong professional network to amplify impact and accelerate their progress.
The Now Teach Programme is funded by the Department for Education whose primary objective is to hit their teaching targets. It must be difficult, however, for the organisation to balance their recruitment marketing between the overarching message of teaching as an inspirational career with the journey to becoming a Now Teach participant.
It is a delicate balance. We dice up or approach across each stage of the candidate journey from:
- Attract (inspire career changers to consider teaching).
- Engage (once we have a level of interest or those that are already considering the move, we engage with Now Teach offer to help them make the right choice of subject, school, and training provider).
- Convert (those already in application processes, we provide support to succeed)
- Retain (working in partnership with school, universities, and training providers to help career changers transition).
At each stage we ensure that we remind candidates of what inspired them to make the journey in the first place, reinforce the positive impact they will have and the increased chance of success when working with Now Teach.
Now Teach provides that wrap around support to anyone thinking about a career change into teaching. Many employers in the early careers space target second jobbers or career changers so what advice would you give employers out there about developing a strategic marketing plan to hire career changers?
Identifying appropriate ways to segment your potential audience is the first step. This is a challenge as there are very few markers. Our audience is neither grouped in one place in high numbers (for example at a university) nor by nature of them wanting to change careers, does their career history help to zero in on a potential applicant (it could be anyone who has a career).
Developing candidate personas guide our efforts to decide on appropriate platforms to advertise and which segments of our EVP may appeal.
My top tip is that hiring career changers can take time. Our research suggests those seriously considering a move into teaching could take anywhere up to 3 years before acting on it. This isn’t simply a change of jobs, it is a change of lifestyle and workplace dynamic; they are likely to be paid less, going back to study, and starting at the bottom of the ladder, which requires a great deal of consideration, time, and commitment. Building a talent pool that you can nurture and develop over time is crucial.
Once they have made the switch, Now Teachers are more likely to complete their teacher training and we have an increasing evidence base that they are adding great value in the classroom.
Speaking of building those talent pools Rob where would you say you are on that journey and what can other employers learn from your approach?
To be honest we are at the start of our journey in building a strategic approach to talent communities. Here at Now Teach we are fortunate that as a small charity we are relatively nimble in our decision-making compared to when I was in the PS world. However, the challenge comes with resources to deliver this approach and balancing our BAU activity with this longer-term initiative. We need to start small, to pilot and to measure. If we can show which elements of the pilot have delivered value, then we can make informed decisions about where to spend more time and money in the future.
How are you leveraging the goodwill of your current participants to drive more interest?
I am a big fan of referral schemes. Who better to endorse candidates than our current Now Teachers. It helps to extend our market reach, increase brand awareness, identify strong candidates, and increase conversion rates. We launched our scheme shortly after I joined, and it is starting to deliver returns. Key for me is to ensure all stakeholder’s benefit. The benefits are clear to the organisation, but we have also needto ensure Now Teachers and candidates benefit from our schemes. We have put in place rewards for Now Teachers’ schools as well as a specifically designed fast-track route for their candidates to ensure this is in place.
Like all teachers, Now Teachers are very busy people, so a simple tool kit and guide helps to break down barriers to adoption.
You have worked in Professional services, HE and now in the charity sector… what lessons have you learned from working in each?
Professional Services firms had a laser focus on results. As most employees billed their time to clients, I quickly learned that you needed to demonstrate value. Very early in my career I called a meeting involving several senior staff. On walking into the meeting room, one of them said to me ‘by having these people in this meeting and therefore not billing work to clients it is costing us x amount; it had better be a valuable meeting’. I learnt to spend most of my time on the most important work, but also to be mindful that what is important to me may not be to a colleague.
HE is a very different environment. It can be slow and bureaucratic but underpinning that is a devotion to the best practice ways of doing things. Although the decisions may not have been timely, they were very well researched, consulted upon and scrutinised. I hope I have taken aspects of those best practices with me.
Working for a small charity is completely different again. It has really demonstrated to me the importance of people versus process. That’s not to say that people weren’t important in PS or HE, but in the absence of costly systems or very well engineered processes, more emphasis is placed on colleagues’ performance and expertise. It is crucial that everyone feels valued, energised, empowered and accountable.
Thank you, Rob, for your valuable time and we look forward to watching the future progress of the Programme.
Written by Jayne Cullen, Early Careers Consultant