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Winning talk

Winning talk

Table of Contents






REED TALENT SOLUTIONS, the brains behind the wildly innovative recruitment solutions that wowed NHSBT and won them the coveted TIARA Talent Solutions Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2022. These geniuses managed to thrive during the chaos of COVID-19 and navigate the labyrinth of regulations that make up the health sector. We can’t see what brilliant ideas they’ll bring to the table for the 2023 TIARAs. They’re the gold standard for DE&I excellence and always bring their A-game.

TI: How did the project come about? Did you have a pre-existing relationship with NHSBT?

RTS: As a result of COVID-19, NHSBT were tasked with undertaking the world’s largest ever trial of convalescent plasma, creating a research project that would require a large team of ‘donor carers’ and a workforce solution that could be implemented at pace.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) contacted our Bristol Reed Specialist Recruitment office in August 2020 to understand our capability to support this recruitment project. There was an established relationship in Bristol having recruited for their business support and laboratory needs.

Through demonstrating our capability to meet the requirements swiftly, complimented by our experience of managing large workforce solutions and vast

experience of recruiting for the NHS and clients with high compliance needs, NHSBT selected Reed Talent Solutions as their workforce solution provider for this project.

TI: What were the key elements of the brief? Can you briefly break it down?

RTS: Key elements to support the recruitment campaign included:

  1. Creating job adverts
  2. Agreeing pay rates
  3. Designing an inclusive recruitment process
  4. Implementing an interviewing team
  5. Creating a dedicated website (htips://nhsbt.reed.com/)
  6. Building and implementing our applicant tracking system
  7. Implementing new processes for candidates to receive hepatitis B immunisations
  8. Agreeing pre-employment vetting
  9. Managing on-boarding
  10. Deploying AI technology

Reed was asked to recruit ‘donor carers’ across the UK to new and existing donor centres. The initial requirement was to fulfil 270 roles in four weeks, increasing throughout the project to over 700 vacancies.

It was essential to promote NHSBT as an inclusive employer, representative of the communities in which they operate. This core value was at the forefront of all our recruitment process decisions and attraction campaign.

As part of the brief, NHSBT advised that no previous clinical or phlebotomy experience was required to carry out this role, as NHSBT built a robust training plan for the new donor carers to ensure they were safe and competent to work in a clinical environment. Due to this, it allowed us to engage with a wider talent pool of candidates. As this campaign commenced during the peak of unemployment as a result of COVID-19, we were able to support unemployed candidates back into work without the limitations of particular work experience being required. We developed an interview and skill testing process that ensured we were providing donor carers that were empathetic, customer centred and passionate about increasing blood and plasma donors nationally.

A key objective for the NHSBT was also to increase the diversity of its donors and grow the donor base. With BAME communities being more adversely affected by Covid, an immediate challenge for the project was to engage with communities and increase BAME doners to support research, treat people and help save lives. To support this, we supported a laser-focused community engagement programme concentrating on diversity and inclusion groups working with religious organisations, and community groups to create partnership campaigns.

The community engagement programme would involve the recruitment of two new roles (faith and belief managers, donor recruiters) for NHSBT to work closely with BAME communities to raise awareness and implement long-term relationships.

TI: What was most challenging about the brief from Reed’s perspective?

RTS: This was a large-scale recruitment campaign and we had only six weeks to design, implement and deliver the solution. What made it more challenging was working under government restrictions due to the pandemic as well it being a highly regulated environment.

Reed Talent Solutions were aware that our time to implement the service would be challenging.

Reed Talent Solutions and NHSBT needed to work at pace during a pandemic where usual implementation timescales and face-to-face meetings could not be accommodated. Reed Talent Solutions needed to design, implement and deliver the solution at the same time, whilst also building contingency and flexibility in the face of ever-changing government restrictions.

This unpredictability presented new challenges throughout the campaign. Through the use of AI technology and the efforts of a dedicated team, we were able to quickly establish the most effective ways of working to reach a swift resolution at each hurdle.

The clinical environment and patient facing responsibilities require suitable compliance requirements, as well as hep B immunisations. To ensure we worked efficiently and avoided any unnecessary delays, we engaged our sister company Reed Screening, who were dedicated to driving candidate vetting and ensuring full compliance. We also partnered with Superdrug to administer hep B immunisations, where future donor carers were able to simply book online at their local Superdrug at a time that suited them.

TI: How did you implement the project? What were the KPIs and timelines?

RTS: Dedicated Resource and Reed Director Level Governance Reed assigned a project manager to drive the implementation of the project. The overall Reed project team consisted of a dedicated account manager, SMEs and key stakeholders across the business, including technology, data analysts, Reed screening, compliance, an NHBST talent acquisition team and director level governance across all workstreams and milestones. Due to the importance and complexity of the project, being to increase blood and plasma donations across England to support the battle against Covid-19, Reed Talent Solutions’ managing director of workforce solutions and managing director of contingent workforces were heavily involved to ensure the success of the project.

We held a virtual implementation meeting with NHSBT to understand each party’s role and responsibilities, project milestones, delivery dates/targets and governance. We agreed regular project checkpoint calls with each stakeholder group as well as overall governance meetings.

Regular Communication and Risk Management

The first delivery milestone needed to be achieved within four weeks due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. NHSBT needed to work quickly to have centres up and running for hospitalised patients to receive the treatment as soon as possible. To ensure Reed Talent Solutions could meet NHSBT’s delivery needs in the timescale set, Reed held daily internal meetings with the NHSBT delivery team and Reed screening to monitor the progress of each candidate in accordance with their provisional start date. We had twice weekly meetings between the NHSBT delivery team, the Reed account manager and NHSBT agency liaisons to provide updates on the progress of donor carer intakes, any potential challenges we were facing, and forecasts for future intakes. This open line of communication allowed for real time updates and offered assurance to NHSBT that the regular progress was being made. It also allows NHSBT to manage expectations with the hiring managers and training department to ensure training resources could be allocated appropriately.

Through regular communications we were able to work with NHSBT to drive activity against timeframes, manage and mitigate risk and ensure successful implementation.

Implementation Aftercare

Our project managers stayed closely linked to the project after the first three months of delivery by continuing to attend the stakeholder meetings to ensure the solution designed and implemented was efficient and meeting NHSBT’s needs, as well as offering different arms of Reed Talent Solutions workforce solution channels to expand the service we could offer. With the speed in which the project was scaling, it allowed for immediate action to overcome any challenges NHSBT or Reed may have faced.

KPIS and Timeframes

Within the first four weeks, Reed were required to deliver 270 donor carers across the UK. To deploy a candidate, the candidate needed to complete an initial pre-screen, pass two online skills tests, complete a competency-based interview and initiate and complete the compliance process. All a mammoth task for an

individual, and Reed were challenged with completing this for 270 candidates plus contingency in 20 workdays. To ensure this was deliverable for Reed and NHSBT’s training team, we split the locations by cohorts based on the resources available across each donor centre. We exceeded this target by delivering 340 donor carers in the first four weeks, which was welcomed by NHSBT.

Within five months, we had designed, implemented, delivered and expanded the service we provided to NHSBT. The service has resulted in over 700 members of staff being deployed into the NHSBT teams. This represents a 12% increase in the entire NHSBT permanent workforce, further demonstrating the impressive scale of the project, the process and the partnership in place to achieve these results.

TI: How did you measure success? What metrics did you use?

RTS: The metrics we used were fulfilment of vacancies, reporting and EDI&B and candidate and customer satisfaction. We are proud to have found success across every aspect of our work with NHSBT. However, fulfilment of the vacancies and finding the best talent was the ultimate success measure. Having committed, trained and vetted donor carers was fundamental to the functional operation and to patient safety in each centre.

RTS successfully filled 100% of all requirements, on time.

Through the people we recruited and the efforts undertaken by both Reed and NHSBT we were delighted by the results, which included recruiting 80,000 donors, increasing BAME engagement, developing capability to collect plasma across 22 sites, hiring and training 1,700 staff and engaging with 14,000+ patients to CVP trials.

TI: In such a massive project, there were bound to be bumps in the road. What were the main challenges faced and how did you overcome them?

As a result of the partnership, we successfully ran the largest ever trial of convalescent plasma. RTS managed the entire recruitment process, supporting 700 donor carers to be deployed across new and existing sites, providing the best patient care while delivering vital healthcare intelligence for the scientific community and increasing NHSBT’s capacity to collect plasma and blood donations.

NSHBT emphasised increasing BAME and youth representation. An inclusive working environment has been at the forefront of our service, deploying inclusive advertising and assessment processes, scored against a pre- agreed criteria to support open and fair decision making.

Overall, our strategy enabled us to positively impact on workplace diversity.

  • BAME donor carers increased to 25% compared to a 15% average.
  • Donor carers under the age of 45 increased to 58% compared to a 40% average.

“RTS and NHSBT needed to work at pace during a pandemic where usual implementation timescales and face-to-face meetings could not be accommodated.” 


Throughout the project we measured satisfaction through our chatbot surveys and open communication channels including dedicated NHSBT email and phoneline.

One hundred percent of the responses received within the community engagement programme confirmed a positive service.

Through the people we recruited and the efforts undertaken by both Reed and NHSBT we were delighted by the results, which included recruiting 80,000 donors, increasing BAME engagement, developing capability to collect plasma across 22 sites, hiring and training 1,700 staff and engaging with 14,000+ patients to CVP trials.

TI: In such a massive project, there were bound to be bumps in the road. What were the main challenges faced and how did you overcome them?

RTS: An extended part of Reed Talent Solutions brief was the niche recruitment for new roles. As part of the focused community engagement programme, NHSBT required Reed to source faith and belief managers, who would work closely with BAME communities to increase awareness of blood and plasma donation and develop long-term partnerships with larger organisations to promote NHSBT, as well as have existing relationships with local faith and community groups.

We adopted a ‘head-hunt’ approach to source suitable candidates for these positions. We worked with our wider teams and drew on our experience of recruiting similar roles within our police contracts.

Alongside the faith and belief managers, Reed were asked to source ‘donor recruiters’, who would be responsible for working closely with NHS organisations and the wider community to increase awareness of the donation of convalescent plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19. As this was a new role, Reed Talent Solutions supported NHSBT in the end-to-end recruitment design, attraction and interview process as well as providing advice on pay rate benchmarking.

Reed Talent Solutions implemented this process and successfully recruited 12 positions all within three weeks. Due to the pace in which we were able to support, we were then asked to recruit a further 35 donor recruiters within a six-week period in new locations across the UK. Whilst we had designed a recruitment process, we were now advertising in new, harder to fill areas.

Due to internal workforce pressures, NHSBT advised Reed Talent Solutions that they would be unable to accommodate more than one intake, meaning we would need to recruit for all areas and vacancies in just two weeks. We sought support from our internal Reed network in order to deliver against the challenging deadlines. Our increased resources and focus to the positions meant that we were able to successfully deliver all 35 requirements within the shorter timeframes

TI: What was the feedback from the client? And how did you build on it?

RTS: Overall, the feedback from NHSBT was complementary of our ability to source and deploy volumes of candidates under the time pressures put in place. We otien received unpromoted feedback sharing their appreciation of our partnership to aid research to batile COVID-19, and shortly atier plasma for medicine.

TI: What’s next?

RTS: EDI&B is part of a talent acquisition programme which continues to mature. The strides that companies and talent solutions providers have made over the last five years in particular means there are best practices and lessons to be shared. We are really pleased that organisations are now able to look at deploying an EDI&B strategy in a much more meaningful way and looking at diversity as much more than race and gender, with the inclusion of the aged workforce, the LGBTQ+ communities, the disabled population and more recently the social class backgrounds.

What is clear is that there is not a one size fits all approach. Different organisations have different challenges, different customers, different locations. But with confidence and commitment to seting an EDI&B strategy that ensures you are a good corporate citizen and it benefits your business then it’s a win win.

The staffing sector has got to continue to review the recruitment process and challenge all parts of the process, including the technology providers to ensure that the candidate experiences are as inclusive as we need them to be. Becoming digital and efficient has obvious benefits, but let’s not undo all the good work over the years to bring EDI&B as a priority in talent acquisition.

TI: And finally, are you going to be entering the TIARAs again in 2023? Why?

RTS: Yes, we very much value the partnership with our clients and the awards give us a great opportunity to take time out to reflect on what we have achieved together. We also appreciate the feedback post the awards from Talint on the strength of our submissions and take the opportunity to benchmark our services and improve where necessary.