On 8 December 2020, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as part of the UK’s immunisation plan. By the end of February 2021, over 20 million first doses had been administered nationally.

It’s easy to forget the scale of this task. Yet the effort was herculean and will go down in history as one of the biggest mobilisations of people and technology the world has ever seen. In London alone, 16,000 vaccinators were needed almost instantly.

It was a challenge Dan Lynch, Head of Automation at Acacium Group rose to. He and his team worked alongside NHS Trusts in the capital. They were tasked with recruiting and screening applicants as fast as humanly possible. In fact, faster. So, he called on RoboRecruiter, an automated digital recruitment solution. “We needed a simple, recognisable way to get in touch with candidates,” he recalls.

They came from all walks of life, Dan explains. “There were bar staff, tattoo artists, and retail workers. We needed to ask them for important information such as where they lived and where they could work.”

Software-driven conversational agents were the simplest and most effective solution. Nearly everyone has some messaging app on their phone, from WhatsApp to Facebook Messenger. It’s how most people communicate now.

What’s more, messaging someone allows a personalised approach and is far more effective than requiring them to complete a form. In fact, 40 per cent of people respond to a recruitment message within 10 minutes, and 60 per cent within an hour.

“We were able to screen 5,000 people in 24 hours. Within five weeks, we’d processed 16,000. And the engagement rate was 87 per cent.”

Dan Lynch, Head of Automation, Acacium Group

Armed with this knowledge, Dan set about using RoboRecruiter, in partnership with Tquila, to contact those who had responded to recruitment posts. He even went as far as putting QR code ads in hospitals and on lampposts that allowed anyone to reach a robot recruiter directly.

“We created a very structured, yes-or-no conversation so we never misunderstood people’s intent. It was very straightforward,” he enthuses, clearly proud of his role in responding to a global emergency. “We got back to people within an hour, or instantly in the case of the QR codes.”

For those who applied via the ads, personalization, like using first names in messages, made them more individual. In fact, Dan and the Acacium Group team even went as far as making sure the robots had personas to help get people on board. “We had Robyn, which used the language, approach and warmth to make her recognisable. This built trust.”

Robyn and her virtual colleagues did pre-screening, checking if applicants had the right to work, were able to train and could take on roles in the right locations. They sourced vital forms, such as Disclosure and Barring Service paperwork. They even contacted references – all through messaging that integrated with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to manage back-end data processing.

“The team avoided having to chase candidates or run in circles playing phone tennis with those putting themselves forward”

Dan Lynch, Head of Automation, Acacium Group

RoboRecruiter ensured all recruitment information was collated and presented to their human colleagues for the final check. “The team avoided having to chase candidates or run in circles playing phone tennis with those putting themselves forward,” Dan smiles.

At a time when speed was everything, this was invaluable. Lives were depending on it, not to mention people’s mental health and the economy. “We were able to screen 5,000 people in 24 hours,” Dan says with satisfaction. “Within five weeks, we’d processed 16,000. And the engagement rate was 87 per cent.”

By this, Dan means the rate of those applicants who went on to have a conversation via the robot recruiters. Not just opening a message, but responding and going through the process. “It was a massive achievement we’re really proud of.”

Reflecting on what could have been, Dan says that without RoboRecruiter, it would have taken 40 people three months to do the same work. The vaccination roll-out could have been delayed significantly in London.

Summing up his story, Dan believes, “The vaccination plan wouldn’t have happened as quickly without this. Every second was valuable.” It was a turning point in history. A moment when robots became heroes alongside their healthcare colleagues. Their role should be celebrated.

About RoboRecruiter
RoboRecruiter is a pay-as-you-use candidate activation platform. It leverages SMS and chatbot technologies to automate the process of finding great candidates, engaging far more people far more quickly than could ever be achieved using traditional approaches.

If you want to hear more about Acacium Group’s experience, Dan shared his experience in a recent webinar ‘How to use conversational messaging to accelerate healthcare candidate placement’.