The public sector employs around one-third of the global workforce and nearly half of all formal sector workers in low-income countries (Ref: World Bank); making it a significant employer across a range of industries from education to health and social care, logistics, local government, legal and transportation to name a few.
The percentage level of public sector employees varies globally, Northern Europe, and Scandinavia leads the way (Norway has 30% of total employment in Government employment), whilst Asia is far less reliant on public sector employees. 18.2% of Canada's workforce is employed by the government while in the U.S., it is 15.3%. In the UK, the public sector employs approximately 5.83 million people in the UK, (Ref: Public sector employment, UK - Office for National Statistics) In comparison, the UK private sector employment rate is at 27.26 million.
Across all countries, the skills demand is high and varied and like many industries faces challenges of talent acquisition and retention. (Ref: Parliament.uk). Issues such as Brexit, the pandemic and subsequent effect on cost-of-living wages have had globally impact, whilst in the UK, the post-COVID pressures put on high-valued roles such as teachers and nurses have all had a significant impact on talent pipelines.
Today’s candidates, especially Gen Z, are looking for roles which offer good levels of pay, job satisfaction, opportunities for development, and an alignment of values. The question is how can the public sector source and select new talent, while developing existing staff to create a talent pipeline that answers demand and the skills required?
Here are several ways the recruiters and HR professionals can look to address these issues:
- Strengthen workforce planning
With increased pressure on public services there is a significant demand for new talent in the sector. Seventy-one per cent of UK public sector employers are currently recruiting, [Hays Salary Guide, however traditionally public sector recruiters experience fewer applications per role than in the private sector.
The demand for talent exists but there is an “attraction gap” - industries need to be able to make their role attractive to candidates to increase their talent pool and begin to successfully select top candidates with the right skill sets, experience and potential to develop. The NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan currently has a “Train, retain and reform approach” - three priorities looking to address the talent shortages. It’s an interesting approach which acknowledges the value of current employees as well as future candidates. Embedding psychometric assessments into the recruitment process can really help to drive data-rich insights that can power the right outcomes.
- Identifying gaps and opportunities
Today’s recruiters need to be able to map skill shortages across roles in order to source the right candidates and predict the movement of talent. Recent research highlights that between April 2020 and April 2022, 72 % of public and social sector or not-for-profit workers who left did not return to the same industries or left the workforce entirely. (ref: McKinsey).
Plus, driven by issues such as technological developments and the changing flow of talent post-Brexit around “73% of public sector employers say they do not have access to the skills required to meet their organisation’s goals, and 24% are going through a ‘moderate or extreme’ skills shortage.” Generating an overview of the organisations goals and mapping these to the skills needed to fulfil them, helps HR professionals plan talent pipelines and staff development – with 55% of public sector employers using upskilling to plug-hard to fill roles in the last 6-months – this could be a key factor (Ref: People Management).
- Prioritize skill-based hiring decisions
HR professionals looking to improve the quality of the candidates are turning to skills-based hiring and prioritizing soft and hard skills over experience and educational qualifications such as degrees. At a time where the cost of a degree is a huge consideration, industries open to alternative pathways will encounter a more diverse talent pool; one that can help to reduce the cost of recruitment, drive team productivity and lower the risk of making a bad hire.
Skills-based psychometric assessments and tools such as Role Assessments can help HR professionals identify which candidates have the right skill sets and provide a fit-to-role score that gives added confidence in decision-making.
An orgainsations brand is its biggest advocate and affects the recruitment process long before job advertisements are placed. With strikes and lower-than-average pay affecting many public sector roles, improving the image of the public sector is vital. With Gen Z’s in particular, looking for careers that make a difference, public sector roles have a lot to offer. Areas that offer clear salary guidelines, job descriptions and show active steps in their approach to DEI will make strides in attracting new candidates and help to raise application levels. If you’re looking to match candidates with values closely related to those required within your role, tools such as SOSIE 2nd Generation can help to identify a person’s personality AND values system to reliably predict motivations, behaviour and adaptation to a role, team and organisational culture.
- Improve the recruitment process
Applying for a new role takes time from submitting a CV, screening interviews, psychometric assessments, face-to-face interviews, skills tests; the whole process can take almost a month in some cases to before an offer is made. The average time from a candidate applying to a public sector job to receiving a job offer was about 119 days (ref: McKinsey).
With around 78% of candidates reporting, they would drop out of the recruitment process because it is too lengthy and complex; it is time to review how you are recruiting and what technology you have in place. Using the right technology not only reduces the talent pipeline but also offers greater insight and feedback. Plus, a more agile and efficient recruitment process improves the candidate's experience and hopefully their acceptance of your role!
The public sector is one of the largest recruiters with a diverse range of roles, but a range of issues are driving talent shortages – this in turn is impacting on skills sets and adding pressure on current employees. To win over the talent pool embracing practices that combine attraction and retention are essential to build a pipeline that not only deals with the current shortfall of staff but plans for the future.
Strengthening hiring strategies by including psychometric assessments and talent platforms can help support HR professionals who want to reach a wide range of applicants and gain valuable insight into how they may perform and fit the organisations culture and values. Together this dual approach can help reduce the cost of a bad hire and improve the overall recruitment process.