Employers’ Use of the National Record of Achievement

Kodz J, Atkinson J, Hillage J, Maginn A, Perryman S
Report 328, Institute for Employment Studies, February 1997

The National Record of Achievement (NRA) potentially has a key role to play in supporting job search and promoting lifelong learning. It provides a format for individuals to record and present their skills, experience and achievements. While employers clearly find benefits in seeing job applicants’ NRAs, their current use is limited and tends to be restricted to school leavers. Employers do not want to abandon their in-house application forms, but welcome an accessible means of improving the quality of information on applicants.

National Record of Achievement

Most school leavers today are issued with a National Record of Achievement (NRA). The NRA is a document, in a nationally recognised format, for individuals to set out their skills, experience and achievements. The NRA aims to recognise and value individuals’ learning and helps them plan and manage their own development. As such it helps to promote lifelong learning and provide a vehicle to create a better skilled workforce. For employers, the NRA has key uses in recruitment and staff development.

Employers’ use of the NRA in recruitment

The NRA is currently used by relatively few employers and its use tends to be restricted to those who regularly recruit young people. Employers generally do not actively solicit NRAs when recruiting. Rather, their use tends to be driven by young people presenting them to prospective employers. However, our findings indicate that the more NRAs employers see, the more they come to expect young people to present them in the recruitment process. Some employers recruiting school leavers can see it as a bad sign if young people do not present their NRA.

Recruitment procedures

The NRA is generally used to complement other recruitment methods. The predominant view, amongst the employers surveyed, was that it should not be seen as being able to replace a specific application to a specific job. Employers who encounter the NRA during the recruitment process do so in an interview situation. It can be particularly useful as a discussion tool for young people who have little or no experience of presenting themselves in an interview. In general, the view of the respondents was that the NRA helps employers to understand people’s personal qualities. The NRA is less good at demonstrating interest in a particular industry, or career ambitions.

Selection criteria

The survey showed that reliability, honesty, motivation and attitude are the most important attributes employers look for when recruiting young people. However, respondents felt that these attributes were less well conveyed in the NRA than the more tangible selection criteria such as qualifications and work experience.

Relevance of the pages of the NRA

The NRA format is a standard folder containing information sheets for:

  • personal details
  • a personal statement
  • qualifications and credits
  • achievements and experiences
  • employment history
  • achievements in education
  • attendance record
  • an individual action plan.

All the pages of the NRA were seen as relevant, although respondents viewed the attendance rate as most relevant. Employers look for evidence to show that what is said in the NRA is true. References, reports and certificates are all useful. Employers felt the document in its entirety was useful; the usefulness of specific pages varies by individual.

Reasons for not using the NRA

The main reason for not using the NRA in recruitment is that few, or no applicants offer them, or that employers lack sufficient knowledge about the NRA. Other reasons include preferring to use in-company forms.

Employers’ use of the NRA in training and development

Employers view the NRA as a backward looking document, ie the emphasis is on past achievements rather than forward plans. Only a minority of those surveyed understand the NRA to be a tool for planning and promoting development. Usage of the NRA for these purposes is very limited. Where it is used, employers tend to take on a supporting role in encouraging individuals to keep theirs updated. Incorporating the NRA into procedures for managing training and development, in any formal sense, is rare. The NRA is seen as being owned by the individual not the employer and where it is used for staff development purposes, it is used in addition to other mechanisms for reviewing and planning training and development.

Benefits of using the NRA

Our findings suggest that the advantages of using the NRA for training and development purposes relate more to the individual, although there are also benefits for the employer. These are both direct and indirect. One of the main direct benefits of using the NRA is recording employee performance. Although many employers surveyed did not see the NRA as being particularly helpful when planning training, some felt it would be useful for undertaking a training needs analysis. The indirect benefit is motivating the workforce. The process of putting the NRA together is seen as beneficial in that it encourages employees to take responsibility for their own development.

Potential for more use of the NRA

Our findings suggest that there is scope for encouraging more employers to make use of the NRA. Around one-third of the respondents who knew about the NRA but had never used it, thought that it might be useful to them in the future. However, the NRA is seen as something that is used by young people, capturing school-age achievements. It is felt that, in its current format, the NRA is not an appropriate document for adults, as opposed to young people, to present to a prospective employer. Nevertheless, an NRA type portfolio is seen as having a role as a personal resource to enable individuals throughout their working lives to draw up effective CVs and applications, as well as plan future learning and development.

Suggested improvements to the NRA

Employers want the NRA to be:

  • simplified through clear signposting and categorisations, but within a common structure and not over-simplified by being reduced to just a summary
  • well written, succinct and meaningful
  • supported young people need to be motivated and have the skills to use it effectively, and the physical resources to update it
  • easy to maintain and update ie progressive.

Respondents suggested features which could be added to the NRA, such as more detail on skills, work experience, career plans and personality. If the document is to be used for adults, employers want to see sections on competences gained at work, and work based achievements.

Determinants of use

There is clearly a need to raise the demand for sustained use of the NRA. The research findings imply that the determinants of use are:

  • Encouraging young people to maintain the NRA. Schools, employers and careers advisors all have a role to play in this.
  • Equipping people with the skills and resources, such as NRA stationery, to be able to maintain their records.
  • Ensuring the NRA is as compatible with work based systems as possible, so that it can either be used with an employer based system, or to provide individuals with a simple structure to plan their own learning and development.
  • Integrating it within other policies and initiatives, so that it is an integral part of a national lifelong learning strategy.
  • Educating employers about the NRA.

The study

This summary presents the main findings of a study for the Department for Education and Employment into employers’ use of the National Record of Achievement. The main aims of the study were to find out why employers either do or do not make use of the NRA, examine the purposes to which it is put, and assess the potential for more extensive usage.

The research centred on a telephone survey of 487 UK employers conducted during July and August 1996, followed up by twenty in-depth interviews.

The sample of employers surveyed was not intended to be representative of all employers. The survey focused upon employers which were quite ‘sophisticated’ in terms of their approach to recruitment, training and development. It was not the aim of this research to assess the extent of NRA usage across all employers.

Employers’ Use of the National Record of Achievement, Kodz J, Atkinson J, Hillage J, Maginn A, Perryman S. Report 328, Institute for Employment Studies, 1997.
ISBN: 978-1-85184-256-8. PDF Download only: £10.00

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