8th July 2024

Opinion: Get the pieces in place

Struggling to attract the best talent to make your Trading Standards team as highly skilled, motivated and diverse as possible? Here are some tips.

By Abbie Hunter
CTSI People and Culture Manager
Alongside considering what experience is needed for the role, it’s also important to understand there are other important elements of recruitment

Recruitment. It’s one of the tasks that comes with being a manager; surrounding yourself with staff and skills that complement your own and work together harmoniously to get the job done to the highest possible standards. Get it right, and the team goes from strength to strength and your reputation as a manager grows, but get it wrong and it’s catastrophic. So, what can you do to ensure that you get it right when recruitment isn’t your specialist skill?

If you work at a local authority, you are likely to have an HR department who can work with you to hire the right person for the right role. However, these people, much like myself, are often not experienced in Trading Standards, so I encourage you to understand the needs of your department and the communities you work in, to help the professionals hire the right people to the right seats.

Alongside considering what experience is needed for the role — such as ability to address criminal offences and enforce consumer protection regulation, ensure legal compliance in inspections, advise and guide traders in areas of specialism — it’s also important to understand there are other important elements of recruitment. So, here are my top three considerations for hiring in 2024, as well as details of what CTSI is developing to support you.

Diversity and flexibility
The first thing to consider is the demographic of your team. In the CTSI 2023 Member Survey, only 7% of respondents were under 35, compared to 13% of respondents who were aged 65 or over. Whilst it is essential to retain these staff and allow them to pass knowledge onto the new recruits of any age, the lack of younger people in the profession significantly impacts the future of Trading Standards. If there’s no one joining to carry on learning the skills, there will be no profession to run.

So, ask yourself what options you have: can you take on an apprentice; what local schools and colleges have career days that members of your service can attend to attract younger people into the profession; and are you advertising in the most popular places? For example, Indeed has the highest number of active applicants across all job boards, but there are also specialist boards for demographics that you may need to hire.

The second area, with no less importance than the demographic of the team, is the demographic of the communities you serve. In the 2021 Census 18.3% of the UK population identify as an ethnicity other than White, but the CTSI 2021 EDI Survey identified 9.5% of Trading Standards Professionals as belonging to an ethnic group other than White.

This is extremely important when thinking about issues that may be present for specific ethnic groups, such as beauty products that are used by non-White consumers. There are also issues that will impact LBTQ+ communities, those with disabilities, and more, that may not be fully understood within your team. Additionally, some communities may not reach out to Trading Standards if they don’t see themselves as being represented by the service.

Finally, hiring in 2024 comes with nuances that were not present pre-pandemic which have positively affected many of us, including working parents and carers. In a 2024 survey by YouGov 57% of workers in the UK want the option for remote working, almost half of young workers will not work for a company that requires them to work in an office full time. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) also notes that two million people changed jobs in 2023 specifically in order to be able to work more remotely.

Other than the advantages of reducing commute times and costs, home working also allows for a better work/life balance, improved happiness, and career fulfilment; studies by Care.com and Mother Honestly have showed that 66% of employees have other care responsibilities, and 73% have children who they are able to dedicate more time to. Offering flexibility in working location will help attract younger workers, workers who have care responsibilities, and those who may find travel difficult due to physical or mental impairments.

Supporting role
So you’ve got your attraction strategy down, you’ve nailed the benefits and you’ve placed the best advert you’ve ever written onto the website that will generate the most candidates. The final hurdle in identifying your next colleague is the interview process. Interviewing has become easier with the introduction of remote working.

Candidates no longer have to book time off to attend in person, physical accessibility needs are met by eliminating any physical barriers, candidates can turn on captions or questions can be written in messaging functions on most online platforms. For those interviews that need to be done face to face, it is important to remember to ask if there are any adjustments that are needed; in a 2022 survey by Prospectus Recruitment only 33% of candidates were asked if they required any adjustments for interview. This small oversight could reduce your pool by 67% and could leave you with pressure to hire anyone rather than the right one, which in itself then causes more issues when having to manage the person you’ve hired because they are not the right person for the job.

At CTSI we are developing a Tool Kit to enhance your skills as a manager. The goal of this is to raise awareness of the issues that impact recruitment in 2024, highlight areas of best practice to position you as a good employer, and give you the templates and skills to hire the best people to your team. We also have apprenticeships on offer, and we are actively working to develop new apprenticeships with authorities in each of the four nations, to ensure the future of Trading Standards is secured. We can also help you identify demographics that may need attention, and help you to influence your HR Department to improve your chances of hiring the best person.

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