· 2 min read · Features

The future of public sector recruitment: The need for employers to innovate against a backdrop of increased spending cuts


The last 12 months has been one of economic uncertainty for many organisations. It has forced employers to examine their recruitment processes and question how they can reduce costs yet still recruit a high calibre of candidate.

Technology has played a major part in facilitating this, and for those who have acted effectively, they have not only survived these turbulent times, but have in fact flourished and are now in a much stronger position as we move forward into 2010.

However, against a bleak backdrop of further pay and benefit cuts announced in last week's budget, it is clear that public sector employers need to innovate further to ensure a high level of talent is retained. 

It may seem counter-intuitive in this climate to talk about recruitment, but regardless of the change in overall size of the public sector in the coming years recruiting fresh talent will remain a requirement. If not, the ambitious public sector reforms, proposed by both the Conservatives and Labour nor the migration outlined by Alistair Darling of the 15,000 London-based public sector workers to elsewhere in the country will come to pass. A key question that needs to be asked here is just where this new pool of talent will come from?

The continuing demand for new skills and ideas is going to require a fundamental shake up of how the public sector recruits staff. It means that HR departments are going to have to reconsider what could make the public sector attractive to potential recruits and how these recruits, and those most suited to the job, can best be reached.

Following last week's budget, it is clear that the wage inflation we have seen in the public sector in recent years will end, and soon. To attract talent, public sector employers will need to adapt what they can offer, and the good news is that job seekers seem to shifting their priorities. Totaljobs.com recently surveyed over 8,000 jobseekers looking for work in the public sector, of these over 6,000 were employed in private enterprise, or had been. Over two thirds of these said that job security was their primary reason for looking at the state as an employer. In contract only 42 percent said pay - which revealingly came behind working conditions, job prospects and training.  This suggests that providing relative job security could be the key to securing new talent, and this is something that should be reasonably easy to do given the popularity of short term contracts in the private sector, especially for those in IT. 

Further, there is more that public sector employers can do to achieve cost-efficiencies and innovate for the future. Following a rapid uptake of the internet over the last four years, now over 37 million people in the UK are online each week. With proposed high-speed broadband being introduced and the already 10-12 million strong jobseekers looking online each month, there is an hugely diverse yet growing audience that are using the internet to search for work[1]. Employers that tap into this audience and advertise jobs online can not only benefit from cost efficiencies but also wider recruitment reach and greater flexibility - something that the diminishing traditional recruitment media circulations are less likely to provide.

An example of how a company can benefit from online advertising can be seen through a move by COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) to place all recruitment advertising on a single online portal. It is anticipated to be an incredible success, with the potential to help shave £3million+ a year from Local Authorities' budgets - a saving of 30% of their recruitment advertising spend in Scotland. This is not only a real saving at a time of public sector spending retrenchment, but it also means that vacant post can be advertised to a larger audience both in terms of size and geographical spread. This increases transparency in public sector recruitment and allows public sector employers find the best candidates for posts.

With government plans in place in the next few years to ensure better digital inclusion for the UK population, it is clear that an effective offering that meets both recruiter and job seeker needs is evident.

John Salt is website director at Totaljobs.com