Established in 1885 in Aotearoa, Hato Hone St John is one of the oldest service organisations in the country, but more recently has been acknowledged as New Zealand’s most trusted charity. A team of over 4000 employees and 8000 volunteers step forward every day with passion for making life changing differences to the wellbeing of all through the emergency ambulance service, first aid training, health products such as personal alarms and community health programmes including St John Youth.

Many employees and volunteers have a very personal connection with the organisation says Sara Symons, Recruitment Experience Manager.

an image of a woman in a white top and wearing a ID smiling wide
an image of a woman in a white top and wearing a ID smiling wide

Sara Symons, Recruitment Experience Team Manager.

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We often hear people talking about wanting to work for Hato Hone St John because of the organisation itself. We are there during some of the most stressful times in people’s lives, providing emotional support and care to help people through their injury or illness. Everyone’s got a personal story. As a result, people inevitably become emotionally connected to our purpose, and then want to be a part of, or support, Hato Hone St John and the work we do.

However, in 2022, like many organisations, Hato Hone St John faced a significant talent shortage due to several market forces combining to create a ‘perfect storm’.  With borders open, the great resignation was in full effect and many NZ based workers headed offshore.  Numbers were also down on New Zealand trained paramedic students opting to join the domestic workforce after completing studies. Additionally, there was a global shortage of paramedics and Hato Hone St John found that international recruiters were actively targeting its employees to fill roles offshore. 

With the organisation’s primary focus on providing critical support for New Zealand’s communities, Hato Hone St John was under great pressure to find a solution to their staffing shortage in a market that was literally tapped of paramedic talent. Hato Hone St John realised that, just like its international competitors, it needed to look further afield to attract candidates. 

having a strong employer brand 

As shared in a recent article by global research firm Gartner, Caitlin Duffy, Research Director in Gartner’s HR practice, says, “The intent to leave or stay in a job is only one of the things that people are questioning as part of the larger human story we are living. You could call it the ‘Great Reflection.’ It’s critical to deliver value and purpose.”

In the 2023 Randstad Employer Brand Research, Hato Hone St John was once more acknowledged as one of the top twenty most attractive employers in New Zealand and the number one employer in the community sector.  It was recognised for its good reputation, interesting job content and giving back to society and the environment. 

Katie Watt, Head of People Experience explains,

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Hato Hone St John is a great organisation to work for. Speaking for myself, there’s something different in working for a purpose led organisation that isn't in business purely to make money or provide stakeholder return. We're all here to make a positive impact on communities across the motu, and make Hato Hone a great place to work; this runs through our entire culture.

an image of a blonde woman wearing a blue blouse smiling
an image of a blonde woman wearing a blue blouse smiling

Katie Watt, Head of People Experience.

The same research also found that work-life balance was also seen as the most important factor when looking for a new role, followed by salary, benefits and training. Hato Hone St John knew that to be successful at recruitment while also remaining resilient at a time of critical staff shortages, it needed to lean into the strength of its employer brand and strong employee culture. 

Katie Watt, Head of People Experience from Hato Hone St John continues, “There's been a shift, post covid. People have had a real think about what they want.  Asking questions like do I really want to be working long hours or is my work-life balance more important?  More people want to work for companies that do good. Especially the younger generations.” 

delivering an end-to-end strategy to meet short and long term skills shortages   

In a bid to fill vacancies, throughout 2022 and into 2023, Hato Hone St John launched an international recruitment campaign that was run in Australia and the United Kingdom. The campaign championed what makes living and working in Aotearoa New Zealand so special.  

Several teams from throughout the organisation worked together on different elements of the campaign, including recruitment, ambulance operations and brand, ensuring a holistic, collaborative approach.  There has been unprecedented interest from Australia and the UK, with thousands of paramedics registering their interest to find out more about the roles, and more than 100 paramedics have now accepted roles here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In addition to the candidate-specific focus, Hato Hone St John also worked with New Zealand immigration to ensure that paramedicine was placed on the green list for visas, making it easier for people to relocate. The team timed the campaign strategically, talking up the lifestyle benefits of Aotearoa in summer, which was seen as enticing for UK candidates looking to ‘escape’ their winter. Alongside this, it tapped into its existing network of paramedics and healthcare leaders.

On top of hiring skilled talent, the organisation also invested resources into developing graduate pathways with tertiary and education providers across Australia and New Zealand in paramedicine and ambulance services.  This ensured it was able to deliver more interesting work and invaluable experience for its graduates from day one.

Melanie Johnson, Recruitment Experience Lead explains, 

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Within Australia, there are currently more students of paramedicine than jobs available. We offer graduates the broadest clinical scope of practise in the world. The incentive for our grads is that they're on the road doing things that they wouldn't be able to necessarily do in Australia. Hato Hone St John offers more autonomy and the on-the-job pathway into paramedicine is all set up for them.

building resilience to last the distance

Hato Hone St John has proven that a strong employer brand, supported by an insightful recruitment campaign that also recognised the need to remove entry barriers, can successfully pull through a significant global recruitment storm to attract and retain great people. 

Sara Symons, Recruitment Experience Manager, says, “It has been a busy and challenging time to navigate as a recruitment team. We have come together as an organisation and delivered some positive outcomes in this highly competitive recruitment space. In the last financial year, we had nearly 20,000 applications and filled, 3500 paid and volunteer roles across the organisation.” 

Looking forward, Hato Hone St John has plans to make further changes to improve its employee recruitment experience by investing in a new applicant tracking system (ATS).  A new ATS will deliver highly customisable, automated processes and workflows, from requisition to digital offer letter creation, so that unique and specific needs of stakeholders from all parts of the organisation are met. 

Katie Watt, Head of People Experience comments, “Investing in fit-for-purpose people technology is a high priority; our applicant system touches a lot of people, and we believe it’s important that everybody has a fantastic Hato Hone St John recruitment experience. Whether they're a hiring manager, recruiter, volunteer or paid candidate.”

an image of a man and woman in their uniforms working at st john with their vehicle at the back
an image of a man and woman in their uniforms working at st john with their vehicle at the back
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