Public sector recruiting can match the private sector – it just needs to transform
Guest Blog by Charles Hipps, CEO and Founder, Oleeo
The public sector needs people with the right skills to cope with the significant challenges expected from citizens. While training and continuous development are important, a large part of securing a qualified workforce is to attract people with the right qualifications and best potential in the first place. Both jobsgopublic and Manpower Group have recently released data that suggest the outlook is looking increasingly bright for the public sector when it comes to vacancies and hiring.
For recruiters like this nursing agency and resourcing leaders, the big question that this raises is “How can we continue to retain and attract the talent we need to remain effective and dynamic in these challenging times?”
As the pressure of budget cuts continues, public service providers are looking at a wholesale transformation of services in the face of mounting barriers including reductions in funding, changing legislation, pay freezes and the subsequent need to be more commercially-minded and business-focused than ever before.
The size of this workforce is no mean feat. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows the public-sector workforce (excluding outsourced services) is not small. It stood at 5.3 million in mid-2016. The NHS, the education sector, central and local government, and the police service are the four largest areas – spending on these workforces total somewhere in the region of £90 billion.
Councils and Police Forces continue to express serious concern that they will not be able to maintain high service quality under the current rate of budget cuts from central government.
With tightened budgets and conditions, public services organisations must prove ROI in every exercise that they do. Operating under financial constraints means making sure the organisation gets maximum value from its investment.
A February 2017 report from the think tank Reform, Work in progress. Towards a leaner, smarter public-sector workforce, states:
“An area for improvement which came across repeatedly in interviews, is the need for public sector bodies to develop stronger employer brands. Millennials often cite ‘meaningfulness’ as a key priority in choosing a job, and this appears to be even more important for Generation Z. Employers should therefore emphasise the opportunities unique to the public sector in having a positive impact on citizens’ lives.”
Fighting for talent against a much more monetised private sector will always be a challenge for the public sector and it’s therefore crucial that leaders review and restructure employee benefits propositions to ensure they are flexible enough to reflect the market and still compete effectively. Research shows that all generations are now as interested in corporate responsibility and a work/life balance as much – and even sometimes more so – than financial rewards. In addition, public sector pay has been criticised as “historically low”.
A recent resourcing and talent planning survey by the CIPD/Hays backs this. It found that in public services, organisational values (52%) topped the list of themes organisations believe most important to attracting candidates. This is followed by working practices (43%), career development opportunities (34%) and an organisation’s pay and benefits (32%).
This mirrors what candidates say they are looking for from new roles. Candidates say companies pique their interest if they talk about organisation culture, values and offer career growth.
However, recently government commissioned studies have found that people from ethnic minorities are less likely to get the top jobs in the public sector than they are among Britain’s biggest companies – despite the legal obligation on state bodies to promote equality and diversity in their staff. The latest Green Park Public Service Leadership 5,000 study reveals that the Civil Service as a whole is around 97% white at its senior levels, with just 3% ethnic minority makeup compared to the 13% average for the UK population.
One of the main reasons for this is that currently, many firms do not adequately monitor the extent to which their specific intake produce better outcomes than a different, and perhaps more diverse intake would have done.
Technology can be a game changer here. Embedding new processes that automate recruitment and redeployment has the potential to result in millions in better diversity and spending efficiencies in the long-term- thousands of pounds can be saved in terms of postage, printing and staffing savings alone with more focus on ensuring diverse representation in offices serving diverse communities. The key is that any public money is used evolve to meet the ever changing sector demands and needs driven by continuous developments, enabling citizen benefits such as time efficiencies and more time to spend on welfare.