The Restart Scheme, a UK Department for Work and Pensions program, aims to help people who have been out of work for more than 9 months to get back into jobs. Restart’s goal is clear: support and advise those who have been unemployed in the long term to find sustainable employment. What’s less clear was who exactly would be the best fit to do the supporting and advising.
It turns out that recruitment-related job experience matters a lot less than who advisors are as people.
“You have to see the best in people, and as someone walks in the door, you need to be able to see their potential and what they can do rather than what they can’t do,” says Becky Brocklehurst, Palladium’s Restart Team Lead. Rather than looking to hire exclusively people who have worked in recruiting, a traditional role in the job sector, Brocklehurst and her team instead built a competency framework based on what ‘good’ would look like and went from there.
“There aren’t many people who have done this job before, so we had to go broader and think about what the transferrable skills are for the role, and the answer was a lot of customer service people.”
Often, those who walk through Restart’s door looking for assistance have not only been unemployed for years, but many have barriers to employment that advisors can help them through. Clients have a full year to work with Restart advisors, time which can be spent crafting resumes, getting prepared for interviews, and building confidence after extended time without a job.
Brocklehurst adds that this isn’t a one-off meeting and that advisors must be resilient, constantly thinking about what’s next for their clients and believing in what’s possible.
When Palladium began hiring advisors in 2021, the team found a pool of unexplored candidates from sectors that had been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. From retail to the service industry, many workers were made redundant or lost their jobs, and it wasn’t because they didn’t love their jobs, Brocklehurst clarifies – it was simply because of the pandemic. “I think COVID-19 gave us the opportunity to source people that we may not have found otherwise. Some of our best colleagues are people who wouldn’t have left their job otherwise but now they love this role.”
So, why zero in on customer service?
“When you think about someone like a retail manager or even a flight attendant, they really represent the brand and the company they work for and deliver quality service so that people come back,” she notes.
“It’s not much different in this role. People don’t necessarily have to come see us, but they’ll be more likely to do so if they want to,” adds Brocklehurst. And that’s only one part of why so many people stick with Restart when other government programs have been unsuccessful. The other, perhaps more important, part is the team’s ability to go above and beyond for their clients so that they not only find a job, but a job that sticks in the long term.
Brocklehurst recalls a recent client who received a job offer but had it rescinded because he didn’t have the right ID. The advisor quickly got on the phone to salvage the job offer, and then helped the client through the process of getting the proper ID. “He hadn’t worked in four years,” she describes. “He was dancing around the office with his advisor, crying he was so happy.”
This is more than a job office aiming to get people in seats – it calls for compassion and empathy, and as Brocklehurst says, a real desire to make a difference in people’s lives. From setting someone who experienced domestic abuse up with a doctor, to going to the shop with a client who received a job offer to help them purchase things that they need for the role, advisors are good at thinking on the spot and flexing with circumstances, rooted in genuine care for their clients. “Anyone who’s worked in customer service is used to spinning the plates and constant changes, which is a big thing in this sector,” explains Brocklehurst. “While it may be structured to a point, you still have to be able to flex and not get in a panic. Instead, adjust and maintain emotional balance.”
It's not always dancing and tears of joy, and advisors also have to cope with some of the stresses and challenges of working with people facing difficult circumstances.
Brocklehurst’s hiring approach has trickled down to impact the way advisors themselves assist each and every client that walks through the door. “We knew what good looked like and who would succeed in the role and so we looked for transferrable skills, which has then cascaded down to helping our clients find their own transferrable skills,” she says.
The approach is working.
Since they opened their doors in June 2021, Restart has helped over 400 people into jobs and counting. With a diverse staff and a unique way of supporting their clients, the team has seen great success. Brocklehurst chalks it all up to the team and their outlook. “It’s about believing in the possible in the face of what might seem like the impossible and always looking at what we can do rather than what we can’t.”
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