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A Guide to Bids & Frameworks for the Recruitment Industry

Written by Thornton And Lowe

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Oct 14, 2022


In this guide, we will cover the essentials of what you need in place if you are bidding for public and private sector recruitment and supply of staff tenders and frameworks.

This includes:

  • Bid library content for recruitment bids
  • Accreditations, policies and procedures
  • Evidence, case studies and statistics
  • Finding and monitoring key public sector recruitment frameworks (both medical/ healthcare and non-medical)
  • Top tips for ensuring compliance and high-performing bids

Recruitment Agency Tender Readiness (public and private bids) – what ‘bid writing content’ is handy to have?

Executive Summary

An executive summary is a great way to introduce your bid, summarise your win themes, and demonstrate your value. It’s the perfect opportunity to improve the perception of your proposal before the buyer reaches the assessed content. Positive perceptions mean the assessor is looking to add points, rather than take them away.

A good executive summary should have flow and focus on the benefits rather than drilling to specifics. Try to keep it to a single page, no more than two is necessary. It should be structured to ensure you are writing about the buyer’s needs, not just what you think is good about your agency.

These are more commonly used in private sector bids, but great to have a template in place even if you largely bid for public sector recruitment tenders.

Technical and professional ability

Demonstrate with evidence your capability and capacity:

• Discuss the likely client’s specifications and how you are best suited to fulfil them. This is a base of information to then tailor for each opportunity. Create sector-specific content highlighting what you offer

• What is unique to you? For example, do you have any software or processes that make you stand out?

• What added value will you offer?

• How big is your candidate pool and how do you ensure it is relevant? How does it perform? Having these statistics and evidence can be very useful.

Account Management

• Details of sector-specific management structures and account managers, including their personal experiences and how they can benefit the contract (these again will be tailored each time)

• Details of the support team, including their personal experiences and how they can benefit the contract

• Add their bio and a professional-looking photograph to give your response a more personal touch. Their bio should give depth and detail to highlight their relevant experience and achievements in similar contracts

• Offer evidence of their experience, use testimonials from clients praising the account management team

• Communication – single point of contact? Framework Director? Contract Manager

Candidate Attraction

It can be beneficial to detail how you attract your candidates. Include methods such as:

• Job market websites

• Social media, such as Facebook or Twitter

• Business networks, such as LinkedIn

• Local area or sector advertising sites if the contract requires local recruitment

This needs to be relevant to the roles and provide reassurance to the buyer.

Candidate Matching

• Detail how you go about identifying individuals with the specific knowledge and qualifications required – how do you source the best?

• How do you ensure compliance, what are your vetting procedures?

• Explain how you get to know the candidate to ensure they are the best fit for the role

• Offering a breakdown of how many candidates you have immediately available would give the buyer confidence

• Include the candidate’s expertise, qualifications, and experience specific to the roles and experience being requested in the tender

• Include if you use specific software, third-party consultants or advertising processes

• What onboarding and aftercare do you provide once the candidate has been placed

Implementation

You should also have an implementation process template prepared with guidance so the user can make amends based on the contract specifics.

This should include:

• Identifying key tasks

• Realistic timescales

• Names of responsible parties for each task

• Who is accountable for the whole process?

• Identify ongoing tasks, goals and KPIs

• Work with your client to establish review meeting frequency

• Propose the format of applicable reports

• Communication

GANTT charts are always beneficial here.

Previous Experience

Collate a library of your recent contracts (last 3 years) broken down by sector. Put together the library from small to large requirements so you can include details of comparable contracts. Contract value, scope, volumes, and KPIs are essential. Case studies and testimonials, including any challenges and how you overcame them, can help strengthen this. Having 3 comparable case studies for each key sector you operate in will save last-minute chasing down of information. We should suggest a quarterly review exercise to ensure these are kept up to date.

Complaints Procedure and Escalation

It is common for buyers to expect a robust complaints procedure. A clear escalation path based on timescales and severity is essential. Flow charts demonstrate these procedures very well. Review the requirements of the tender or framework in question to ensure your standard process in compliance or exceeds their requirement. Examples of case studies where a complaint has led to a policy/process change help strengthen these responses.

Financial Standing

Include evidence of your financial history, and 3 years’ accounts. This demonstrates stability, and hopefully low risk. A buyer may wish to know what percentage of your turnover is generated in their sector, so having this breakdown available can be very useful and save time when the tender is live. Include your group financials too, being part of a large successful group strengthens the perceived stability. If you are a new or smaller agency ensuring you fully understand the financial thresholds is essential before investing further time in creating the bid response.

KPI Identification and Reporting

Make it very clear in your response how you will identify and measure KPIs. Give an example of how these KPIs will be reported to your client, how often and by who. The specification will often give what KPIs are expected, so alignment is essential and if you can add others which will have a clear benefit to the buyer – you are adding value! But ensure the benefit is clear.

Communication

As part of the account management process, you should include details regarding communication. This should include the different means of communication:

• Single point of contact? Or dedicated team? Who are they and what are their details – include them. Make it specific to bring the bid to life

• Hours available (as your default and then checking against any specific requirement of a buyer)

• Online chat functions. Including active hours

You may find guidance on communication expectations within a tender specification. It is important to detail how you would meet and exceed the expectation, including the who, how and when. How you track your contact with clients will add weight to this, especially if you can provide evidence. CRM reporting requirements and procedures can act as good evidence.

Added Value and Innovation

Adding value and innovation is a strong winning theme for recruitment bids. It often comes down to reviewing the specific buyers' requirements, what are they trying to achieve, and how are they being evaluated and then tailoring your solution around that. Having an open discussion with your team to consider how you can better help them. Running through all the key requirements and expectations and considering how you can exceed these and offer added value will really help demonstrate your approach across the contract.

Do you have evidence of successfully implementing innovations which have had a significant impact on other contracts? A case study to demonstrate how your approach works in practice can be beneficial. Ensuring the outcomes of what is achieved align with the likely goals of your clients.

Social Value

We have a specific article here on Social Value if you're looking for a more in-depth look. It is important for the agency to consider what they are willing to commit to. Depending on the contract value, what is feasible? As a guide, you can review more prescriptive tenders which have clear Social Value expectations. It is then important to ensure you have evidence of what you have achieved. A good route for creating this evidence is being proactive and approaching your key strategic clients with a Social Value offer. This can then be monitored.

In Public Sector Recruitment and Staffing Frameworks it is quite often committing to their Social Value standards, which can make it easier, though you still need to consider how you will do this.

House Style

To improve the overall look and tone of your bids, it is recommended you build a house style and guide on its use. This will ensure your bids are uniform in appearance and writing style. Things to consider:

• Font and font size

• Headings and text styles

• Colours to use, including RGB/CMYK or Hex codes so they can be easily duplicated

• Page layouts

• Consistent writing styles such as sentence structures, sentence formality, and acronym use.

Bid Graphics and Images

If your response allows for it, strengthen your bids with relevant graphics and images.

Enhance information reporting using graphics such as tables, charts, and diagrams. Questions to consider:

• Are you using the correct format, should that table be a flow chart?

• Is the information clear, uncluttered and formatted to your house style?

• Does it fit on the page, maintaining the flow rather than restricting it?

• Has it been inserted as an image? If so, consider changing it to being a functional graphic or increase the resolution so it can scale without losing quality.

Images and photography can be used to:

• Improve the buyer’s perception of your business through interesting images with positive connotations

• Break up blocks of text. Text-heavy responses become difficult to read. Help maintain the buyer’s attention by breaking it up into shorter paragraphs with imagery slotted between

• Improve the overall visual appeal of a document, giving it a more professional feel.

However, keep the images relevant. For example, you would not put a photograph of nuclear cooling towers into a wind farm recruitment bid.

To make this quicker and easier, build a library of sector-specific photographs.

Insurance

Have your certificate and values ready.

  • Employers Liability - Minimum £10 million cover is standard
  • Professional indemnity - Minimum £10 million cover is standard
  • Public Liability Minimum £10 million cover is standard.

£5m - £10m is an expectation for public sector recruitment tenders and frameworks.

Accreditations

These accreditations will assist in winning bids and getting onto frameworks easier. If you do not hold them, you may need to prove that you have suitable systems in place to comparable standards or confirm evidence you are working towards them or will have in place prior to contract award. But if you have them, having the certification and manuals, up to date in a single folder will make it really easy. Ensuring you set a reminder to update them.

  • ISO 9001 - Quality Management
  • ISO 14001 - Environmental Management
  • ISO 27001 - Information Security – covers all data, including non-digital
  • Cyber Essentials - Cyber Essentials Certified or CE+. These cover all digital information and networked IT assets.

While ISO accreditations are not always mandatory, they are vastly beneficial through the process improvements and evidence of compliance that come from accreditation.

Of course, within the recruitment industry you would also be expected to have:

  • REC Accreditation - Recruitment & Employment Confederation

Awards

Make a point of your recruitment or sector-specific awards. Where you have won, give details of what the award was for. Usually, you have had to apply for the awards – so the application itself can be a really useful document to support your bids.

Policies and Systems

These are the minimum you should expect. You should set out a document register that highlights who is responsible for which part, how frequently they should be reviewed, previous review date, details of amendments and document version.

  • Anti-corruption Policy. A statement that your company adheres to the law prohibiting bribery and corruption
  • Business Continuity Plan (BCP). This will help demonstrate your ability to continue providing a service with little or no disruption following a critical event. This should include contingencies for all events, such as power or telecoms failure, unforeseen site closures such as fires or floods, or staff shortages such as throughout a pandemic
  • Code of Conduct. This should be a robust document detailing the standards and expectations of your staff. It should include the core values of your business.
  • Complaints Procedure/Manual. Buyers will want to understand what happens when something goes wrong. Must include escalation, contingency, and resolution plans. Must also include a review plan.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) including your CSR is a great way to show in detail what your business is passionate about. A CSR should include overviews of social and ethical topics
  • Social Value Policy – detailing your corporate commitment
  • Environmental Management System (EMS) - this is a framework designed so your company’s environmental performance can be controlled and monitored. ISO 14001 guidelines can help build a robust EMS
  • Environmental Policy Statement - a statement relating to your environmental practices, and how you reduce your impact. This will reference your EMS. If accredited, ISO 14001 should be referenced. Often this can be provided in place of your EMS as a support document
  • Carbon Reduction Plan
  • Equal Opportunities Policy - must be in line with the Equalities Act 2010. This should include details of your equality and diversity practices
  • Information Security and GDPR Policy - detailing the data security rules and protocols your staff using IT equipment must adhere to
  • Modern Slavery Policy - in line with the requirements under Modern Slavery 2015
  • National Minimum Wage or Living Wage
  • Quality Management System (QMS) - this is a framework of processes and responsibilities designed specifically to ensure consistency and improvement to your business practices. ISO 9001 guidelines can help build a robust QMS
  • Quality Policy Statement - this would be a statement relating to and summarising your QMS. If accredited, ISO 9001 should be referenced. Often this can be provided in place of your QMS as a support document
  • Recruitment Policy - maintain a robust recruitment policy that references the how, who and where. This should include references to your Equality Opportunities Policy.

Recruitment Bid Library Summary

By having these items in place and up to date, you will find bidding for recruitment and staffing frameworks and tenders much easier and more effective. You will be able to focus your efforts on tailoring your information, researching the specific requirements of the tender and creating a persuasive and compliant offer.

What do we mean by recruitment bids and tenders?

Recruitment services, or the supply of staff whether on a permanent or temporary basis. Many organisations choose to outsource their recruitment needs to a third partner agency. They may set up a Recruitment PSL (Preferred Suppliers List) which you need to bid to get jobs or with larger businesses or the Public Sector they may advertise the requirements for recruitment agency services via tender.

A recruitment tender is a document that a buyer/ contracting authority will ask you to complete and submit a response to.

A recruitment bid is your response, it is your proposal offering your services. The response to the tender.

What is a recruitment framework?

A framework is similar to a PSL but largely used in the public sector. Many public sector bodies such as the NHS, Blue Light Services, Central Government, Councils, Schools, Colleges and Universities, MoD, MoJ and Housing Associations, for example, require recruitment services.

As a public body, or classed as a contracting authority they need to procure services in a specific way which is open, fair and transparent to achieve value for money. It needs to be compliant. Rather than each organisation going through this individually, which is highly costly, a framework is set up that certain groups of the public sector or all of the public sector can use. The framework is advertised and recruitment agencies have the chance to demonstrate they are suitable (compliant) and on most occasions, that they are the most suitable (competitive on rates and quality of the offer and supporting proposal describing the solution).

These are usually advertised every 4 years and there is 6 weeks to find the tender and submit the response.

Depending on your sector, there are some key recruitment services frameworks that can often be a ‘must have’. E.g. supplying nurses or medical staff to the NHS.

We cover frameworks and Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) in more detail here.

What are the key public sector recruitment frameworks in the UK?

Crown Commercial Services (CCS) Recruitment Framework Opportunities

The largest frameworks for recruitment services in the UK are via Crown Commercial Services (CCS). CCS, their role and their approach is covered in our CCS blog.

Their recruitment services come under the business area of ‘people frameworks’. Let’s dig into more detail about the requirement of the Staff Banks framework and what it requires from bidders:

CCS Managed Staff Banks (Flexible Resource) – Bidding essentials

Managed Staff Banks (Flexible Resource) current agreements runs till July 2023 with the procurement of the new agreement live now (October 2022). Estimated contract value £2,000,000,000.00. We are working with our clients on this framework now to develop the quality aspects of the bid and ensure compliance.

This key NHS recruitment framework is managed by CCS on behalf of the NHS Workforce Alliance. It allows trusts to balance up their workforce capacity due to staff absences, unplanned staffing gaps or general shortages in the specific sector. Trusts can manage their own staff bank or work with an approved agency.

Like many CCS recruitment frameworks, it is a single-stage opportunity but with a selection questionnaire (SQ) built into the tender. This will require your core business information and commitments to their terms and policies, such as that relating to skills and apprenticeships.

Managed Staff Banks – the bidding essentials

  • £10m insurance across the board (employers, professional, public)
  • Cyber Essentials in place or prior to the award
  • ISO 27001 – Information Security Management and ISO 14001 in place or within 6 months or contract award. This includes your key subcontractors also having this accreditation
  • Carbon Reduction Plan in place
  • Previous and relevant supply experience is crucial – ‘in a single 12-month period within the last 3 years, and within a maximum of 5 contracts, delivered a minimum of 400,000 hours in the delivery of services. CCS will often make these quantifiable pass/fail requirements part of the recruitment frameworks
  • Financial standing – they provide a tool for you to assess if can pass this stage of the selection. It can be quite complex so well worth giving this time at the start of the process to ensure you create a pass and successfully bid for this framework. This will differ from framework to framework with some being more accessible than others.

CCS - Non-Clinical Staffing Framework

Non-Clinical Staffing – non-clinical temporary and fixed term staff running till July 2023 with the procurement live now (November 2022). Estimated contract value £2,000,000,000.00. We are working with our clients on this framework now, providing bid writing services to develop the quality aspects of the bid and ensure compliance.

CCS - Temporary Healthcare Staff

Temporary Healthcare Staff – procurement start date May 2023 with an estimated contract value of £7,000,000,000.00

CCS - Future Workforce Framework

Future Workforce Framework which is currently in place till January 2024. The estimated contract value of £15,000,000,000.00

CCS - Permanent Recruitment Solutions

Permanent Recruitment Solutions in place till March 2024. June 2023 is the estimated date for the procurement of the new framework to begin. Contract value - £45,000,000.00.

CCS - Executive Recruitment Services

Executive Recruitment Services in place till September 2024, likely to be re-procured in December 2023.

CCS - Supply Teachers and Temporary Staff (STaTS)

Supply Teachers and Temporary Staff (STaTS) in place till July 2026, procurement is likely to begin in October 2024. Estimated contract value £400,000,000.00.

Other UK Recruitment Agency Frameworks (non-CCS)

NHS Wales Shared Services

The supply of Agency Nurses, Midwives, Health Visitors, Healthcare Assistants and Operating Department Practitioners. Managed by NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership-Procurement Services (hosted by Velindre University NHS Trust) with an estimated contract value of £70,000,000.00.

Procurement of a new framework could be in April/ May 2023

ESPO – MSTAR (Managed Services for Temporary Agency Resources)

This temporary agency recruitment framework is managed by ESPO and currently in place till April 2023. Typically expect the re-procurement exercise to take place 6 – 9 months prior to the current framework expiring, which gives enough time to run the new tender and award the contract.

ESPO frameworks can be used by the whole of the public sector, however, we typically associate them with Schools, Councils and Housing.

Procurement for Housing (PFH) – Recruitment Services Framework

A compliant framework for Housing Associations/ Registered Providers to source their recruitment agencies, covering:

  • Managed Recruitment Services
  • Recruitment Process Outsourcing and
  • Talent Bank Technology.

Established in 2019 and running till September 2023. We would expect to see the tender advert for new suppliers looking to bid for the framework in March 2023.

How do I find recruitment tenders and frameworks?

At Thornton & Lowe we have software which is totally free to monitor tenders, set up tender email alerts and monitor your competitors. Tender Pipeline can be accessed here.

You can simply search ‘Recruitment’ and your location – e.g. ‘UK’. Or on the advanced search, you can search via the CPV code (common procurement vocabulary) – start typing recruitment and you will find the code really easily. You can then set up alerts for recruitment tenders.

If you offer broader or associated recruitment services such as recruitment advertising it is worth including ‘advertising’ in your search or adding the ‘advertising’ CPV code as well.

Recruitment Bid Writing Top Tips

We also have some recruitment agency bid writing top tips in a recent article.

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