Over the course of the last 12 months, our lives have completely changed from a business and personal perspective. And we’re seeing that the pandemic is sparking a renewed interest in public sector roles. More people are citing a desire to give back, they’ve seen the important role that the sector has played in the pandemic and, we can’t ignore that during a crisis, people are drawn towards roles that provide stability and certainty.
So, what are the key decisions organisations will have to make to attract the best talent? With the increase in private sector professionals moving into the public sector, this is an area worth exploring, especially in the context of recruitment to roles that have a heavy focus on place or communities. And the key question is, does expanding your search cross-sector give you access to a wider pool of talent that could lead to greater outcomes for your residents?
The way that the public sector has responded to COVID-19, and continues to deliver, is incredible and organisations should be championing this as part of their recruitment campaigns. We are seeing a rise in demand for talent from outside of the sector, specifically within land, development, regeneration, capital projects and property. By steering away from outdated images that fail to represent the truly amazing outcomes that local authorities help engineer, we can open the sector up to a talent pool of individuals that bring a diverse set of experiences and skills.
But what are the pros and cons of doing this within land, development, regeneration, capital projects and property? How do we continue to educate those outside of the sector and refresh the perceptions on the difference they can make?
It is evident that there has been a real shift and increase in the number of applications, and in the overall interest the public sector has received, from private sector candidates since the start of the pandemic. There is certainly an opportunity to capitalise on this to secure resource.
The range of projects and programmes such as housing development, regeneration, schools, property, and the strategic management and investment of portfolios, is ever-growing, along with the pressure and expectation on the public sector to play a leading role and deliver strategies that promote economic growth.
These are exciting roles and provide an opportunity to those outside of the sector to be involved in large, complex and impactful programmes. The skill is finding those who can operate in a political environment and understand that the driver isn’t just about bottom-line performance. Now more than ever we have to focus on inclusive growth, and candidates coming from the private sector need to understand this.
Though this all sounds straightforward and positive, is there a risk? We cannot hide from the fact that once the economy picks up private developers, consultancies, management, investment and construction companies will begin to ramp up their recruitment campaigns with financial offers that the public sector simply cannot compete with. But is this time different? The pandemic has not only changed the way we live our lives, but it has also humbled us as human beings and made us re-evaluate what we want from a role and from the organisations we work with.
In some ways, it has acted as a reset button for a bubble that was not sustainable prior to the pandemic. There will be no quick fix to the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, therefore long-term security, work-life balance, and working towards a public cause will all come into play, which for many will counteract the financial offering.
Overall, seeking to secure talent outside of the normal channels and outside of the sector simply provides further choice during recruitment campaigns, whether that be on an interim or permanent basis.
There will be occasions when this is simply seen as too big a risk politically or it requires an experienced local government professional who understand the governance and political frameworks intimately. However, on the other hand, the option to attract private sector individuals would be welcomed with open arms for roles such as Capital Programme Directors, where the majority of property and major projects professionals and development experts will be familiar with the political input and can evidence a track record of delivery and commercial brain.
You could say, the ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’.
Dino Christodoulou is a senior consultant at Tile Hill