The prison population is rising. Corrections need more officers. They needed to recruit and fast. But managing some of New Zealand’s most notorious criminals is not up there in terms of career aspirations. How can we help them recruit?
This posed a significant creative challenge. Not only was a career with Corrections not on Kiwis’ radars, the public also had a lack of knowledge. What would it be like to work in a prison? Safety is the biggest question, followed by fear and stress. How would we attract the right people in the right numbers, in a career that is largely hidden from society and associated with society’s criminals?
Not only did we need to raise awareness for hard to recruit career roles with Corrections but we had to find a way to answer questions about the role and give insight into what the day to day experience would be like.
If we couldn’t do this successfully, good people would be lost. We needed to find a way to reach out to recruitment prospects in a way that would set Corrections apart.
We held focus groups, did online research and ran a public survey to understand public awareness and desirability for a career with Corrections compared to their competitors. From these pieces of important research we found a number of key insights that led our thinking:
- we’re appealing for roles in Corrections in an environment that the public just don’t want to know about. This means there are low levels of awareness, knowledge and societal recognition – if you work at Corrections, expect a negative response from those around you.
- the public need to see Corrections roles in a more human context, closer to their lives
- Corrections employees, astounded us with their passion for the role, their strong sense of purpose and their ability to articulate how they feel about what they do
- the public believe you only need a narrow skillset to work on the frontline at Corrections, yet employees saw it entirely differently. A complex set of emotional attributes are needed including resilience, life experience, inner strength, calm under pressure, empathy and a team player.
Our research and thinking showed us that current employees had an important role to play in attracting new recruits. We set out to find a way to connect current employees working in our prisons and communities today with people interested in a role with Corrections.
What we did
We rolled out a phased digital media campaign to raise awareness, drive traffic, encourage questions and drive sign-ups for a Live Q&A event. Rich data was captured so that follow up communications could be overlaid with insights of the demographics of attendees.
We built a long term recruitment platform to hold the live sessions, a panel of Corrections employees, mainly Corrections Officers, were interviewed and asked questions submitted by the public. Questions were also encouraged throughout the live broadcast, and then moderated and answered by the Corrections comms team during events.
Such a revolutionary approach for Corrections was not without risk – especially reputationally, and we worked closely with the leadership of Corrections to design a bespoke digital platform to minimise risk.
There are 9,000 Corrections staff who now feel they have a voice and that what they do matters.
Applications increased 35% in the week after the event, proving the Live Q&A to be more cost-effective than traditional recruitment approaches.
We’ve earned the trust and respect of Corrections to do more in this space. We’ve run multiple events and scaled the Live Q&A website for further use as part of a new Careers at Corrections website. It’s just the beginning of improving the end-to-end online recruitment experience.
Perhaps more importantly, what began as a recruitment brief has become a strategic shift in Corrections’ culture and has led to the development of an Employee Value Proposition: to rehabilitate inmates and keep the public safe. There are 9,000 Corrections staff who now feel they have a voice and that what they do matters.