Recruiting Enablement Blog



Q&A with Danielle Foster of Essex County Council

Charles Hipps December 17, 2020

In the run-up to the Christmas period, we are publishing the full transcripts from our interviews with finalists from the In-house Recruitment Manager (Individual) category at the In-house Recruitment Awards 2020.

Today, we profile Danielle Foster, Resourcing Delivery and Strategy Manager at Essex County Council.


Q1: 2020 has been an interesting year, tell us about your talent acquisition challenges and how you have been resolving these?

We have been very lucky in that, as an organisation, we have continued to recruit at volume and have been fortunate enough to receive an increasingly high number of applications. Whilst this has seen us busier than ever as a team, I think when we see some of the terrible impacts COVID has had on the recruitment industry we have felt grateful to have been able to contribute in some way to the response and to find ourselves in a position where our services are in high demand.

A big change for us was the almost overnight (literally) change to virtual recruitment. It wasn’t something we really did pre-COVID and with so much ‘in-train’ recruitment we couldn’t afford to stop recruiting so we needed to repurpose and support our hiring managers and candidates very quickly - to recruit in a different way yet still feel supported. We simply didn’t have the time to incur delays so it was designed at pace and implemented within 48 hours of lockdown, something that would have never been possible pre-COVID.

I have also seen and feel a real anxiety from our candidate population, many of whom have experienced significant changes in their professional and personal lives and find themselves looking for work unexpectedly. We have tried, and we hope succeeded, in making their recruitment experience a positive one even in the face of such change.

Q2: What would you say are your biggest accomplishments this year?

I would say the opportunity we had as a resourcing team to directly support the ECC COVID response. The quick re-purposing to virtual I mentioned in my last answer has seen us as an authority conduct over 4000 virtual interviews and onboard over 400 new external starters, many of whom have never psychically met their team to this day. This has seen such determination from services across ECC especially Technology Services  who not only migrated us to a virtual way of working within days but have supported the complexities of setting up new starters virtually with all they need.

In addition, resourcing re-purposed themselves in April to re-deploy ECC staff who had been stood down form their roles to support our covid response, we actually redeployed over 300 employees in to critical services, not least the Essex Wellbeing Service, a new service which has been central to ECC supporting our residents in this difficult time.

Lastly, resourcing supported the staffing of the Essex track and trace service, again at pace in a area we had no previous experience in. Our response to COVID has been widely complimented and it's actually lovely to know that in some small way we were able to support our ECC colleagues in the wonderful work they have done.

Q3: What advice would you offer others for 2021 and the slow return to normal that we are hearing about?

Firstly, my advice would be that first and foremost we should all stay safe and look after our mental wellbeing, it feels more important than ever. I would also say next year will be a real opportunity for resourcing professionals. We’ve shown you can recruit virtually successfully and there are time an efficiency benefits in doing so. We can also onboard virtually and staff can become effective in this way. We don’t need to commute at 9am and 5pm and we don’t need to pay train or parking fees to deliver to outcomes, but we also miss each other and the office. I think 2021 will change the way we recruit and I really hope it does - such opportunity has been realised from such change and I hope people don’t lose that sense of possibility!

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