Inspired by Jess

One of the biggest challenges in social care is getting and keeping great staff. I am learning about different ways to recruit personal assistants (P.A.s). Two weeks ago I was part of an assessment day, supporting Jess to recruit personal assistants with her personal budget. Jess is 19, an avid reader, informed debater, member of the South West Integrated Personal Commissioning Peer Network, and in my eyes, a future leader. She has a personal budget and uses a wheelchair. My role was to interview with her, and observe some of the sessions to give feedback.

There has been a lot of work leading up to this day. We had had a videoconference to support Jess to develop the advert for this role. Jess had already developed the job description, and person-specification built around her one-page profile (using the matching staff tool). Jess and my colleague Emily, had planned the assessment day to be a way for the applicants to learn about Jess, and for Jess to see where there was a great fit between her, what she needs, and a potential PA.

This is what inspired and impressed me with how she designed and delivered the day:

1) Sharing information about her, and the role

Jess had already shared her one-page profile as part of the information pack for the role. She had hired a room, and as people came in, in the coffee area, she had created a board with information.

The first part was photos of her family, and their names (including the cats). This powerfully communicated both how impoFullSizeRender[24]rtant her family are, and that the role takes place in the family home.

Underneath this was her one-page profile, and on the other side, a summary of each of the conditions that Jess has and what this means in practice in her life. You quickly could see who and what matters to Jess, and some of the detail of the support she would need. In the interviews, the candidates had an opportunity to ask more about her conditions and what they mean in relation to the support Jess needs.

Jess had also prepared a short powerpoint on ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ in relation to the role of the PA – personalised to her.

2) Seeing people do tasks that directly related to the support she needed

Jess loves a great debate – about politics, feminism, and current affairs. To be part of Jess’s team, you need to be comfortable sharing your views and debating. Agreeing with her views is not a requirement, but sharing yours and debating is.

As part of the assessment day, there was a group discussion based on challenging scenarios. Each person had an envelope with a scenario that they were asked to read out in turn and get the discussion going.

Jess and her dad are going to a concert in Antwerp next year. Jess gave people the practical task of showing that they could book tickets and organise the travel, and consider the accessibility issues.  She was looking for people who did not simply accept a hotel website that said it was fully accessible, but to check this, and to figure out how to ensure that train travel would work with Jess in her wheelchair.

Finally, she gave people a bunch of receipts to organise – an important skill for supporting someone on a personal budget!

3) Seeing how people could communicate and work together as a team.

Jess knows that it is important that the people who take the role are able to communicate well together. Jess had a couple of fun exercises that involved two people communicating together non-verbally. In pairs, she gave one person a piece of paper with some shapes drawn on it, and the other person had to draw these, based on the first person just explaining what they are.

This showed not only how people communicated together, but how they responded to instructions and their toleration for frustration if the other person was struggling to understand.

4) Delivering the day in an atmosphere that balanced serious and fun, information and challenge

Jess led the sessions, and brought us in to support her. Her mum, Jo, was heavily involved and Jess also made it clear that her P.A.s were working to her, and for her. There were lots of opportunities for people to ask questions, and the atmosphere was warm, and informal but serious too.

At the end of one of the interviews (with one of the candidates who was successful), I asked her about her experience of the day. She was very positive, said it had been both fun and challenging, and added,

“I have learned about myself, as well as learning about Jess.’

What an achievement – to create a day where people learn about themselves, have fun, and can see if they are a fit for the role, as well as Jess being able to decide who she wants to fulfill this incredibly important role.

Finally, she is involving  her two new PAs in reviewing what worked and did not work about the recruitment process.

A leader of the future.


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