Recruiting the Deputy Director of Policy and Partnerships
Patients, service users, carers and other members of the public inform and influence our work in different ways, from advising our Board on key strategic decisions, to helping us plan inclusive and impactful events, to supporting staff recruitment.
We recently appointed our new Deputy Director of Policy and Partnerships, Naho Yamazaki. This role involves lots of engagement with different stakeholders, so we involved members of the public and a person from one of our partner organisations in the recruitment process. Becky Purvis, HRA's Director of Policy and Partnerships, and Su Conquer, a member of the public, share what it was like to work together during this process.
How has public involvement informed and influenced this work?
Getting the insights and perspective of members of the public was crucial in appointing someone to this role – we were looking for someone who is committed to public involvement and understands how to do it well.
The job description and person specification specifically asked for candidates to have a commitment to inclusivity and valuing diversity, to be a brilliant communicator who can talk to people in ways that work for them, and an inspiring leader. It was important to us that candidates did not just tell us about their skills, but also demonstrated them. So, we assembled a group of three people from groups that this role would regularly work with, which included a member of the public. Each candidate took part in an exercise with this group, who scored how well they thought the candidate did these things.
We also involved two people external to the HRA in the interview panel - a member of the public and a person from an organisation that we often work with. The member of the public also helped us develop the final shortlist, scoring and selecting the candidates for interview from a longlist. All panellists were involved in designing the questions and agreeing what a model answer would look like.
We use a scoring process in our interviews and every panellist’s scores, plus the scores from the exercise were added together to help us choose who we should offer the role to.
Being part of the recruitment process for the Deputy Director of Policy and Partnerships was my first time being involved in supporting the HRA. I took part in a day of engagement exercises as part of a panel of three. There were eight very strong and well-prepared candidates. I was aware that different panel members had been involved in the shortlisting, and another group of panel members were involved in the interview stage, which also involved members of the public. So, the process seemed rigorous and fair. I felt my experience and perspective were different, but complimentary to the other two professional panel members. We were able to ask questions and discuss topics with the candidates. This gave me an insight into how relatable and inclusive the candidates might be if they were successful.
What’s gone well, and what hasn’t gone well?
Overall, the process went well and I enjoyed it. I felt well-prepared for the interview day, with wrap-around support from the HRA’s public involvement team. I also felt included and valued as a panel member. The recruitment process had different phases, which made it very thorough and gave the candidates opportunities to impress many people.
However, I was only involved towards the end of the recruitment, and I think it would have been valuable for me to see the process from start to finish. There were excellent candidates, and many of them would have been deserving of the job, bringing different takes on the role. I guess we couldn’t have them all!
It went brilliantly because we have a new deputy director! Personally, I found it hugely valuable to have so many different perspectives informing the process and final decision. It has given me great confidence in our decision making because I know that we had robust discussions and worked these through together.
It was a lot of work for those involved, with a considerable time commitment to meet with multiple candidates. That is always the case with recruitment, and we did take some steps to make it easier, with breaks between interviews. The people involved in the exercise had a very long day and we will learn from that in future, booking in more time for exercises like these to take place.
What have you learnt?
I knew it already, but it was nice to confirm it - that the rewards of opening yourself up and sharing decision-making come back many times over. It can be scary sharing some of the ‘power’ in making a big decision like a recruitment, but taking the time to design a process that is fair and involves everyone can help you make a better decision that you can be confident in.
In the engagement exercises, the candidates taught me a lot about different methods and approaches to public involvement in research and practice. Being involved has shown me there is a high standard at the HRA, which ensures the most suited people become members of staff with influence.
This process has taught me that newly appointed staff at the HRA will help progress good quality public involvement, ensuring it is embedded into HRA’s culture and ways of working. I am thankful for the opportunity and wish Naho Yamazaki all the best with the role.