The ‘battle for talent’ facing the public sector


Ahead of the next Livingston James Leadership Conversation with the City of Edinburgh Council’s  chief executive Sue Bruce, our public sector expert Douglas Adam, looks at the ‘battle for talent’ facing the public sector and why it is more important than ever that the sector works to sell itself to potential job hunters.
The public sector is facing a considerable challenge.  With well-publicised budgetary pressures, and the increasing need to ‘do more with less’, there is a growing acknowledgement that the sector needs to attract employees of the highest quality in order to meet increasing public scrutiny and demand for front line services.

With greater emphasis on commercial negotiations, collaborative and partnership working, service redesign, and transformational change, the skills prevalent in the public sector today are not likely to be the same skills that are required tomorrow.  In short, the public sector needs to cast its net wider to attract and retain the best people in order to make change happen.

As the economy continues to show signs of improving and business confidence grows the ‘battle for talent’ is an issue that continues to challenge organisations across the private and public sectors.  In fact, as competition to attract talent increases, how organisations engage with potential job seekers from the very start of the process becomes increasingly important.  This is particularly relevant to the public sector given potential misconceptions from those with a private sector background around predisposition towards internal candidates and necessity for sector specific experience.

What can public sector organisations do to become a more attractive employer to a wider range of people?   As it becomes tougher to market public sector jobs on the basis of pay, benefits and job security, one route is for public sector organisations to put more emphasis on their values. Building a recruitment strategy around the intrinsic rewards of public service and the ability of employees to positively impact not only the organisation they work for but also the wider community, speaks to those whose values reflect those of the sector.

More emphasis on values during the recruitment process not only helps to attract the right people, but also ensures those that join the organisation are committed to achieving the goals of the organisation and feel engaged.  This can positively impact not only on staff retention, but also on productivity and goal attainment.

While this ‘brand marketing’ approach is not one often encountered within the public sector, an organisation’s reputation and the values and achievements that are associated with it will be crucial to attracting and retaining the best people. Intelligent investment in promoting the organisation based on its values more than repays itself if it means getting the right staff in post.

Livingston James is holding the next in its series of Leadership Conversations with Dame Sue Bruce, chief executive of the City of Edinburgh Council, in conversation with World record holder and adventurer, Mark Beaumont. The event takes place on 23rd June and will see both speakers share their thoughts on ‘achieving the unachievable’, discussing some interesting parallels from their very different worlds.  For more information please contact [email protected].

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