By Helen Sanderson (CEO, Helen Sanderson Associates)

Compassion is our first value in Wellbeing Teams. Wellbeing Teams are small, neighbourhood, self-managing teams inspired by Buurtzorg in the Netherlands. They support older people or people with disabilities in communities, and offer a combination of home care, reablement and community connections. Naturally we want the people we support to experience compassionate, person-centred and safe care. As Wellbeing Teams are self-managed teams this means that relationships within the team are even more important, and we need teams to work in compassionate ways with each other. For compassion to be built into the heart of everything we do, we need to both recruit for compassion, and demonstrate compassion throughout our recruitment process. We need to be compassionate as an organisation as well as look for people who share this value.

We use Monica Worline and Jane Dutton’s definition of compassion at work. They say that "Compassion is more than an emotion; it is a felt and enacted desire to alleviate suffering" (page 5) and offer a four part process:

  1. Noticing suffering
  2. Understanding suffering
  3. Feeling empathy for people who are suffering
  4. Taking action to allieveate suffering

Recruitment can create anxiety, stress and suffering when people are not responded to, feel anxious about interviews and don’t know when they will find out the outcome of interviews.

We post adverts on job noticeboards that give you the option not to respond to applicants, who send their CVs to organisations and then hear nothing from them.  In interviews, power is held by the people doing the interviews and applicants know nothing about the people who are interviewing them (other than name and title). Their stance is ‘are you good enough to work here with us?’, and performing in interviews can be stressful for many people. After the interview sometimes only the successful candidates are contacted, and people wait anxiously for the phone call or email that could determines their future work.

We have tried to design our process to reflect our values and treat people with kindness and compassion.

Rather than using a traditional person specification we use a format called a one-page profile, and ask the question, "Could this be you?" . This says "Here are the sort of characteristics of the people that we're looking for; could this be you? These are the kind of things that would be important to the people that we'd be looking for; could this be you? And this is how we'll be providing support to enable people to do their role." By using this approach we describe the characteristics and values of the person that we're looking for. We don't ask for qualifications and don't ask for experience, because we believe that it's the person's values and their character that is the most important. We can teach people the skills they need. As we are not looking for skills and experience we don’t ask people for CVs, and we don't ask people to fill in application forms at the beginning. We respond to everyone who contacts us.

We ask people to start with an informal twenty minute conversation, to book a call with one of the recruitment team. The purpose of the conversation is to learn about the person, to make sure they've really understood what the role is about, and to give them an opportunity to ask us any questions. This helps us learn abuot what matters to people, and people who are engaging and and have a ‘can do’ attitude are invited to the next stage which is completing application forms, doing some pre-work, and then coming to join us in a recruitment workshop.

We ask people to complete their one-page profile as part of the recruitment pack and application form. We send people a video and links to make this as easy as possible. A one-page profile includes information about what people like and admire about the person, what matters to them and what good support looks like for them.

The pack includes the one-page profiles of the recruitment team, so people learn what matters to people before they meet them at the recruitment workshop. We hope does two things – it helps candidates learn about the recruitment team, so they feel human and not intimidating, and it also shows them what a good one-page profile looks like. Wellbeing Teams support older people and are committed to co-production. I have a co-production partner called Helen, who is a carer of somebody who is receiving care at home, and she joins us as an equal partner in the recruitment team and potential so candidates receive a copy of Helen's one-page profile too.

The recruitment workshop replaces the interview in our process and it lasts for three hours. We put a great deal of attention into setting up the room, to create a friendly and welcoming environment with bunting, flowers and posters. As soon as people come in they are warmly greeted and as part of the welcome we also ask each candidate for a time when they are going to be available the next day, for us to call them with feedback and to tell them the outcome of the recruitment process.  The recruitment workshop is a series of different exercises, so that we can see peoples values in action, instead of talking about them. We explore values and compassion around touch, conversation, and reflections on situations through values cards.

As a Wellbeing Worker you are people to get up in the morning, with personal care, and with meals. We need to see whether people can do that in a respectful and compassionate way. We are exploring this through getting people in pairs and doing hand massage. For most people, hand massage would be an unfamiliar skill, so we give them a set of clear instructions with photos; we give them lovely towels and massage oil; and we ask people to pair up and five minutes massaging the person's hand, and then swap over. We notice how people interact and offer compassionate touch.

Another part of the Wellbeing Worker role is having conversations with older people about what matters to them and what good support looks like for them. We involve Helen and other team members and ask candidates to ask the questions that we would actually use in our work, and to see if they can have the conversations where they are gently enquiring about what matters to people. This includes what what bad days look like, and how we can support people to have better days.

We use values cards based on the four areas of compassion described earlier by Monica Worline and Jane Dutton  of noticing suffering, interpreting suffering, feeling empathy and acting on suffering. We developed questions (supported by Jane and Monica) that reflect these four areas of compassion.

Here are some examples:

"If you're working in a team and you notice that a team member has made a big mistake, what's your first impulse and how would you handle the situation with other team members?"

"When you meet an older person who we're about to support for the first time, how can you approach learning about what's not working for them or what they might find upsetting?"

"You've been expecting information from a colleague, and the deadline was yesterday. How do you respond?"

"Can you share an example of how you supported someone who was upset and suffering at work?"

Finally, in our recruitment workshop we give candidates an opportunity to interview me, the Wellbeing Leader. Often I am asked questions about the role, but I have also been asked about my values.

The question that we are answering in recruitment is about fit, not whether someone is good enough to join, but whether they are a good fit for us and we are a good fit for them. We are looking for people who share our values, and compassion is central to this. We also want our recruitment to demonstate our values and cause as little anxiety and suffering as possible. We ask every candidate who gets to the recruitment workshop stage to help us learn how to improve, so that we can keep learning and developing in how we both live our values and find people who share them.

NB. Wellbeing Teams have been finalists for the Skills for Care Accolade in Best Recruitment Initiative in 2016/17 and 2018, for their Value Based Recruitment. You can find out more about Wellbeing Teams at and through this short animate