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supporting welfare to work providers

Effective networking

Networking and referrals section image: Image depicting two small plastic men shaking hands with a large arrow on eth ground - concept to imply networking and referals

Effective networking is an ongoing project that will need planning and time dedicated to it. See this case study for suggestions on how you could go about it.

See these case studies for suggestions on how you could go about it.

Case study 1: effective networking (Kennedy Scott)

It took 18 months for us to turn some of the contacts we made into referral sources.

We started with a marketing plan where we listed all the organisations we could find. We then split the list and started contacting them to arrange either a visit or a leaflet mailing. We also made sure we collected information about services they offered. Some organisations wanted to visit us to see what we could offer their customers and to meet advisers to discuss individual cases. It then took time for suitable customers to be identified and referred to us.

This was the point where we were able to identify organisations that offered specific services for 50+ customers. We checked exactly what services were on offer and how they could be accessed.

We added all contacts and actions to a marketing plan so we could evaluate the effectiveness of what we were doing. It enabled us to keep a count of the number of referrals from each source. We started with a list of over 300 organisations and local community groups. Some were not interested and others were no longer in operation. We also went outside our immediate geographic area and spoke to national organisations to see what local groups they could signpost us to.

We also make sure that new course information and staff/premises changes are communicated quickly to everyone.

Case study 2: effective networking (Paritas)

To help us to provide a recruitment service and promote diversity in the workplace we need to work with a range of expert partners in the fields of employment, health and business. This ensures a professional and tailored approach that enables us to match employers’ needs with skilled trained workers, some of whom may have additional support needs. In 2009 we were recognised for our partnership work with employers when we were a runner up in the Jobcentre Plus Local Employment Partnership Awards.

Key to our successful networking is the establishment of an Employer Engagement Forum whose membership comprises many different organisations including DWP Prime Contractors, Business Partnerships, Jobcentre Plus, local colleges, Mental Health Associations, NHS representatives, and many third sector and charity organisations, including carer organisations. We meet once every two months and are able to distribute notes and emails to each other to help us all keep up-to-date on new things being offered in the area that might be of assistance to our customers.

Some people may think it too time consuming to meet up, but we believe the benefits of having a formal meeting make it worth the investment. We can all keep up to date with other areas of work, we avoid becoming too isolated, and we can share good practice and make sure we are able to understand and make good use of the services on offer in the area too.

We often invite employers to speak at our meetings. They tell us about their recruitment practice which is useful for us in terms of understanding their needs. This gives us the opportunity to ask them questions on a number of topics, for example about the recruitment of older jobseekers. They also talk to us about what we can do to help people find and keep a job.

Our networking activity enables us to refer our customers to appropriate organisations, and helps us introduce just the right support at the right time to help them find work. An example of the success of our networking approach relates to an older jobseeker who had been recently referred to us by Jobcentre Plus. We discovered she would need to update her office skills to achieve her job goals. We quickly referred her to our contact at the local college where she was able to update her computer, office and Excel skills. She was then referred back to us. After some work on her CV and interview skill training she soon found work with the local council.

Another example is a carer who found it difficult to find employment that would fit in with her caring responsibilities. We referred her to our local Independent Living Centre who provided carer support so that she could work for more hours. This really broadened her employment opportunities.

Many local community groups have sessions aimed specifically at 50+ customers. They are often happy for other organisations to come along and talk to the group about what can be offered. This might be specialist job search sessions or CV workshops.

There are many ways to keep relationships working. You could think about setting up regular provider meetings in your area to discuss local issues and how to address them. You could invite a member of Jobcentre Plus to help with procedural issues. One contractor offers space in their offices to allow referral organisations to hot-desk and use their facilities. They do not charge for this, but view it as part of an ongoing relationship.

Contract managers are also very useful contacts as they can often put you in touch with other providers, or may know of a contact that you don’t. They can also offer advice on possible solutions to issues within a particular project.

Here are some other suggestions for making useful contacts:

Researching useful contacts

  • Try local libraries for information on local support groups
  • Check council/borough websites
  • Attend job/career fairs and talk to other providers
  • Contact local voluntary organisations
  • Talk to colleagues based in your organisation’s other offices
  • Talk to housing associations (many have a focus on employment)
  • Contact local community groups (you may be in a diverse community area)
  • Carry out web searches

Keep in touch with organisations you can refer your 50+ customers on to if you are unable to provide them with the specialist support they need. You should make the appointment yourself and ensure your customer is comfortable with the change of provider. You could consider offering space in your offices for them to meet your customers if this would be helpful.

See Useful links for examples of sub-contractors who specialise in working with specific customer groups.

Consider repeating this whole process (see this checklist) with your employer contacts. You could create a live working document showing all employers, their vacancies and the state of current recruitment for those vacancies.

Checklist

  • Build a list of possible referral organisations
  • Divide the list and note who will contact, by when and how
  • Contact the organisations
  • Update the plan
  • Keep in contact with organisations weekly/monthly
  • Offer open days to keep informal contact
  • Keep plan updated and monitor networking activity

Disclaimer
This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.

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Resources

Case study 1: effective networking (Kennedy Scott)

Case study 2: effective networking (Paritas)

Useful links

Drugs/Alcohol and Homelessness

Lifeline Projects Ltd

Ex-offenders: PLIAS

Ex-offenders (pre-release): Citizens Trust

Personal development programmes

Remploy
Shaw Trust