Memorandum by Veredus (PAP 69)
Capita RAS and Veredus Executive Resourcing
(both wholly owned subsidiaries of Capita Group Plc) have significant
experience of assisting Departments and other organisations in
recruiting to public appointments (see Annex 1 for specific examples).
Using dedicated teams of experienced project managers and consultants,
we have considerable experience of managing recruitment projects
that are of significant public interest.
Appointments to Chair and Member roles involving
executive search activities to enrich the pool of candidates are
primarily managed by Veredus. The Veredus team has handled high-profile
appointments of great political sensitivity. Appointments where
the requirement is for response handling services and/or assessment
only are usually handled by Capita RAS.
A tailored approach is used for each assignment,
using the most appropriate media and methods. For example, Capita
RAS recently ran a campaign for lay members which incorporated
national and regional press advertising supported by local community
poster campaigns and a dedicated microsite. This resulted in distributing
20,000 application packs to candidates and receiving 4,500 completed
applications, approximately one-third of which were on-line. After
assessing all applications against an agreed competency framework,
assessment and interviewing of 700 candidates was arranged, from
which 244 were offered appointments.
In this memorandum, we have picked up some of
the points not covered when we gave oral evidence to the Committee
on 13 February. We have related our points to the written questions
framed by the Committee, using the numbers of the questions for
ease of reference.
4. What are the main priorities for improving
the system of public appointmentsshould it be for instance
to extend the range of people involved in bodies, to improve the
effectiveness of the bodies in providing advice or administering
services, or to change the balance so that elected national, regional
or local government has more of a role in public life?
We believe that the system of public appointments
should ensure that those appointed have the necessary skills to
fulfil the requirements of the post, while also seeking to ensure
that public bodies are representative of society, including balanced
representation of women and men, members of ethnic minority communities
and people with disabilities. This latter is of course a matter
of equity, but also of sound business practice. Our view is that
the national interest is well served by extending the range of
people involved in public bodies, since diverse teams and diverse
boards tend to make more informed decisions. We are committed
to diversity, and we mainstream it in all we do. We actively use
search/headhunting as a tool for promoting diversity and delivering
to our clients candidates who for whatever reason might not otherwise
have thought of putting their names forward for key roles.
5. Government departments publicise public
appointments, assess applications and draw up shortlists for interview.
Independent assessors take part in the process and appointments
are made on merit. Is this a sensible devolution of power to departments
or does it cause problems and create unfairness?
We believe there should be a consistent approach
across Departments in terms of the overall rigour of the recruitment
process. At present, practices vary. Some Departments include
preliminary interviews and references as part of the process,
whereas others take the view that this is inappropriate at senior
level. It seems inappropriate to us that someone can be appointed
to an important role in public life on the basis of no more than
a paper application and a 45-minute panel interview (the quality
of which can vary greatly).
In our oral evidence we commended to the Committee
the process adopted for the recent appointment of the Chair of
the Commission for Racial Equality. A rigorous process along those
lines has the advantage that Ministers have more information available
to them when making the appointment. Moreover, in terms of public
scrutiny, it is clear that the person appointed has cleared a
series of hurdles, and there is a perceived objectivity in that;
perceptions of undue Ministerial patronage are less likely as
The same rigour should apply to the preparatory
stages. There have been examples of unrealistic timetables being
promised to Ministers, which compromises the effectiveness of
the recruitment process. Similarly, a job analysis of the role
should be carried out at the outset, so that the necessary skills
are identified. This would focus the advertisements better, and
ensure that the criteria are clear and appropriateneither
so vague as to be ineffective nor defined in such a way as to
exclude candidates inappropriately. An example would be specifying
that a candidate must be a graduate, rather than of graduate calibre.
We believe that candidates from the private
sector can be disadvantaged due to their unfamiliarity with the
public sector recruitment process. As a result, such candidates
can tend to undersell themselves, both at the application stage
and at interview. Those involved in appointments may need an increased
awareness of this factor.
8. What part, if any, should politicians
play in the public appointments process?
While the degree and nature of Ministerial involvement
is of course a matter for Ministers and for Parliament, it must
by definition be appropriate for Ministers to be involved in Ministerial
appointments. The recommendations of the Committee on Standards
in Public Life have helped to instil some clarity here.
In our experience it is important that the nature
and timing of Ministerial involvement should be clearly stated
and known, so that it is clear that it forms part of the overall
process. When we are engaged in selection processes for posts
for which the appointment will be decided by Ministers, we find
a Ministerial briefing at the outset very helpful. Candidates
are more likely to be convinced by a recruitment consultant if
one is able to talk first-hand about what the Minister is looking
to achieve in terms of a particular organisation or policy.
13. Is there evidence to suggest that the
current system is not attracting applications from the widest
pool of candidates?
We see a need to ensure a consistently proactive
approach on this point. Advertisements are often not enough to
encourage people from under-represented groups to apply, because
they do not necessarily perceive themselves as the target audience.
More effort is needed, through more original approaches to advertising
materials and through search, which can target candidates from
under-represented groups, and which, through gentle coaching and
encouragement, can generate in some potential candidates the confidence
and inclination to put themselves forward.
14. How can greater diversity best be combined
with reassurance that the principle of merit in public appointments
is being upheld?
We do not see a conflict between the two. What
works best is honesty, transparency of process, rigour of process,
and a readiness to help candidates to understand what can seem
an alien recruitment process. In practical terms, we would make
the following suggestions:
ensure that diversity considerations
are mainstreamed throughout the design and delivery of the recruitment
and assessment processes;
ensure that inappropriate and non-essential
criteria are not used in person specifications;
use innovative methods to access
suitable applicants by way of specialist networks and third sector
diversity-proofing and equality audits
of interview and assessment centres to ensure that the whole process
is culturally sensitive and responsive to valuing and managing
diversity in its widest sense.
15. Would a more consistent use of remuneration
for members of public bodies help to increase diversity in their
membership? Are there any possible drawbacks to an increase in
the number of remunerated members?
We believe there is no evidence to suggest that
there is more commitment and motivation where there is no remuneration.
No remuneration simply means that you exclude anyone who cannot
afford to work for nothing, however committed they may be.
There is a good analogy here with councillors
in local government. While councillors were unpaid, most councils
were dominated by retired people and wealthy people. In many cases,
the introduction of salaries for executive members (and in some
cases for all councillors) has been agreed because they are believed
to make a difference to this, and will allow for a broader representation
of people to stand as councillors. It is likely that this will
result in a broader and more representative body of people putting
their names forward.
The same argument would be likely to apply here.
In any case, why should public appointments not be seen as professional,
and valued accordingly?
16. Is the public appointments process understood
by members of the public and seen to be fair, open and transparent
and easy to travel through?
Many inexperienced candidates find the public
appointments process extremely daunting, despite Dame Rennie Fritchie's
excellent work doing roadshows to raise awareness and encourage
people to apply. (Veredus helped the Women and Equality Unit with
the materials for attendees at the roadshows for women.) It follows
that the involvement of consultants can be helpful, because there
is an independent intermediary to explain the process and help
people understand and therefore give themselves the best chance.
We have no evidence to suggest that candidates
feel the recruitment process is not transparent. One of the advantages
of using competency-based application forms or asking candidates
to address appointment criteria is that candidates know the criteria
against which their application will be assessed. It also provides
the basis for feedback to help them understand why they were or
were not successful.
25. Should every candidate, even important
people for high level appointments, be asked to complete application
forms and attend interviews in the normal way?
We believe that selection procedures for public
appointments should be clear, objective, consistent and open,
and that they should be monitored and evaluated. This requires
that applicants should take part in a similar procedure, so that
they can be assessed against the same criteria. In our experience,
competence should never be assumed, at whatever level of post.
There is already a widespread perception that public appointments
are the preserve of "the great and the good"; allowing
some candidates to bypass parts of the appointments procedure
would feed that perception. It would give such candidates an unfair
advantage over others, and would militate against the aim of achieving
more diverse appointments to these posts.
This does not mean that candidates have to complete
lengthy and bureaucratic application forms, which we would see
as a retrograde step. The practice in Veredus is to request candidates
to address the key essential experience criteria, which we seek
to restrict to no more than ten points, written objectively, against
which candidates can write replies objectively, and which we can
then assess objectively.
The Committee asked whether there is objective
evidence of the benefits of using recruitment consultants in the
public sector, for both executive and non-executive postsie
do those organisations using consultants perform better than those
which do not. It would be difficult to point to evidence of a
direct correlation, partly because the quality of top management
is not the sole determining factor in an organisation's success,
but also because organisations use consultants for different reasons.
Some do so as a matter of policy, on the grounds that an objective
evaluation can help the organisation to recruit more effectively.
Others use consultants as a means of specifically targeting or
encouraging people from groups that are typically under-represented
at senior levels, such as women and people from minority ethnic
communities. Others again use consultants because their reputation
is so poor that they acknowledge they need support in attracting
On the latter point, Veredus has a reputation
for handling this sort of assignment: for example, we have twice
recruited to the post of Chief Executive at both Hackney and Lambeth
Councils. In those cases, the Councils turned to us because they
knew the posts would be extremely difficult to fill; they were
pleased with the results, and therefore used us again when the
post next became vacant. Using recruitment consultants does not
automatically make an organisation's performance excellent, but
we believe it does maximise their chances of attracting the widest
range of high-quality candidates.
Just as there is no direct correlation between
high-performing organisations and their use of recruitment consultants,
it is not necessarily the case that top talent is attracted to
the top-performing organisations. Interestingly, a recent article
and leader column in Local Government Chronicle commented on the
recruitment implications of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment
(CPA) of councils. The magazine reported that "There is some
evidence to show people are attracted to posts in more poorly
performing councils, a reversal of the trend which was feared
before CPA came out in December." (LGC, 7 February 2003).
The article quotes Sir Andrew Foster, Controller of the Audit
Commission, and Hamish Davidson, Chairman of Veredus, making the
point that there is more scope to make an impact at a poor or
weak authority than at an excellent one, which can be an attraction
We referred in our oral evidence to a study
by Bristol Business School.
This study found that chief executives believed there was a better
chance of women being appointed to chief executive posts when
recruitment consultants were involved in the appointment. This
reflects the value of an objective input to the process, challenging
any preconceptions that may emerge.
Veredus Executive Resourcing/Capita RAS
CAPITA RAS APPOINTMENTS
In recent years, we have been involved in a
considerable number of public appointments, including:
Chairman of the Meat and Livestock
Chairman and 12 Members for the Prison
and Probation Accreditation Panel
Chairman and 12 Members of the Youth
Chair and Members of the New Opportunities
Chair of the Audit Commission
Chair of the Commission for Racial
Chair of the Commission for Integrated
Chair of the Environment Agency
Chair of the Legal Services Commission
Chair of the Social Services Advisory
Chair of the National Disability
Chair of the Post Office Users National
Chair of the Equal Opportunities
Chair of the Criminal Cases Review
Chair of the Electoral Reform Commission
Chair and Members of the Committee
on Standards in Public Life
Members of the Police Complaints
Members of the NI Civic Forum
Members for the Low Pay Commission
Members of the General Social Care
Consumer Council for Postal ServicesRegional
National Probation Service for England
and WalesArea Board Members
Commissioners for the Commission
for Racial Equality
Members of the Criminal Cases Review
Fair Treatment Arbitrators for the
NI Labour Relations Agency
Members for the Regional Development
Members of the Criminal Injuries
Compensation Appeals Panel
Members of the Parole Board
Members of the National Endowment
for Science, Technology & Arts
2 Room at the Top? A study of women chief executives
in local government in England and Wales (Pam Fox and Mike Broussine,
May 2001). Back