What does it take to win the war for talent in the public sector?

What does it take to win the war for talent in the public sector?

Hiring in the public sector right now is challenging, to say the least. Wave after wave of public sector workers have gone on strike due to dissatisfaction over pay and working conditions. And according to a poll by the trade union body TUC, over 30% of workers are considering leaving their profession.

Talent is increasingly hard to find. Research has revealed that there are around 40,000 unfilled nursing roles in the UK, plus a shortage of 10,000 doctors. By 2025, there is predicted to be a shortage of 50,000 teachers.

It all comes down to pay

In the war for talent, the public sector often loses out. And it almost always comes down to one key factor – salary.

The public sector has lots to offer, from generous pensions to learning and career development opportunities. But budget restrictions mean that in many cases, public organisations simply can’t compete with private businesses when it comes to pay.

Gordon McFarlane, who is the president of the Public Services People Managers Association (PPMA), told Personnel Today:

“We’re having to have lots of conversations about why local government is a great place to work, the learning opportunities on offer – but people still want to know the pay is competitive, and that can be difficult to deal with,” 

“Some authorities are looking at targeted incentives such as market supplements for certain roles, but they need a strong business case to get those over the line. And that’s become more difficult because we’re more challenged than before, so it’s a vicious circle.”

The importance of building a brand

If public sector organisations are unable to compete on pay, they must find other ways to win the talent war. A key strategic step is to develop their brand as an employer.

Organisations need to define their employer value proposition (EVP), and ‘sell’ themselves as an inclusive, supportive and opportunity-rich place to work.

If candidates will have access to generous benefits, flexible working, or chances to work with cutting-edge technology or on high profile projects – these should form the pillars of your EVP.

Streamlining recruitment processes

Another area that the public sector often falls down on is the bureaucracy of its hiring processes. These can sometimes be onerous, time-consuming and frustrating, and will almost certainly deter certain candidates from applying.

This is something that needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency, because public organisations can’t afford to let even one potentially good candidate slip through the net.

Develop your own talent

If it’s hard to find talent and even more difficult to attract it, organisations may need to adopt another hiring strategy. One tactic is to hire people in more junior levels, and train them up to the required standard. This requires investment of time and resources, but it also provides an opportunity to mould candidates into highly skilled, loyal team members – or potentially even the leaders of the future. If nothing else, it prevents vacancies from sitting unfilled.

Need help with hiring? Get in touch with our specialist public sector recruitment team here at Castlefield.