Public sector employers need to adapt if they are to continue to secure the right skills to drive their organisations forward, according to a new report from Hays Public Services, the leading recruiting expert. The report, ‘The changing face of the public sector – how employers need to adapt’, is based on a survey of over 1,000 public sector employees and employers which examines how financial and policy pressures have changed the way the sector recruits and motivates it staff.

The report found that two thirds of public sector employees believe redundancies and increased scrutiny have stripped the public sector of some of its best people and three quarters said that more needed to be done to attract talent. Against this backdrop, Hays Public Services outlined key actions that public sector employers need to take to adapt to the changing environment.

Andy Robling, Public Services Director at Hays, says, “Two years ago the Comprehensive Spending Review marked the beginning of a profound change in the way public sector services are staffed and managed. Now the public sector is at a crossroads and leaders need to understand what will attract top talent to work in the public sector. What might discourage them and how to develop and motivate them once they are in post? We propose a number of action points to organisations and employers to navigate these difficult questions and position the public sector as an employer of choice.”

Hays’ key actions that the public sector should take to adapt to the changing environment to secure top talent:

1. Revaluate skills regularly – replacing people who leave on a like-for-like basis might not always offer the skills you need in the new environment. Consider each role individually and pay particular attention to the skill set needed and the type of person who will be successful in the role.
2. Focus on non-financial benefits – employers need to play to their non financial benefits when looking to attract new staff. As it becomes tougher to market public sector jobs on the basis of pay, benefits and job security, public sector organisations should stress their values and build their recruitment strategy around the intrinsic rewards of public service. Flexible working is an attractive benefit and should be highlighted to prospective employees.
3. Strengthen the organisation’s reputation – the term ‘brand’ still sits uncomfortably in the public sector, but an organisation’s reputation and the values and achievements that are associated with it are crucial to attracting the best staff. Intelligent investment in promoting the organisation more than repays itself if it means getting the right staff in post.
4. Develop digital recruitment strategies – using digital channels to build a relationship with potential staff offers a cost-effective way of building your reputation, conveying the benefits of your organisation and attracting talent. This includes using bespoke social media campaigns and creative messaging to promote both the organisation in general and specific roles.
5. Invest in staff development – developing staff remains crucial for the organisation and the individual. With material benefits being squeezed and job security being eroded, it is more important than ever that staff feel their skills and opportunities are growing. Be clear about how they can develop their careers within the organisation, put the necessary processes in place to monitor and evaluate their success.
6. Work with the private sector – many parts of the public sector still need to face up to the likelihood of greater private sector involvement, understand what that will mean in terms of how their role, organisation and operation will change, and ensure they have the right skills and experience to make its relationship with the private sector work. If this is not done, it is inviting a serious risk of service failure.
7. Provide leadership – the importance of first-rate leadership cannot be overstated. Leaders who engage staff, respect them, listen to them and give them autonomy to make decisions and carry responsibility will secure rich rewards in terms of their organisation’s performance, resilience, motivation and ability to adapt.