A market overview

The human resources recruitment market within the public sector has remained consistent over the past few years, although companies are now showing more confidence and increasing spending on recruitment. The general consensus within the public sector is that there is a shortage of good middle managers and companies will often use agencies to attract top talent from the private sector.
The market remains competitive and as a result day rates of contractors have risen, although employers are dictating the pace of recruitment processes. There is always a plethora of candidates within this sector and recently good, commercially-minded candidates from the private sector who have aspirations of wanting to work within the public sector are moving across. Generally, the sector is growing and returning to pre-recession market conditions.

Subsector challenges

Each subsector has its challenges.
  • The NHS is attempting to increase the commercial acuteness in how hospitals and practices are being run and has therefore encouraged the increase of foundation trusts in order to hold NHS trusts accountable.
  • The housing sector remains very competitive and joint ventures as well as acquisitions seem to be the trend over the past six months.
  • There is an increasing trend for key public sector clients within healthcare, central government and government agencies to use the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) framework. However, quality candidates are often lost through the inefficient process.
The challenge for recruiters is to educate clients to look at overall skill set and experience gained rather than specific subsector experience or lack thereof.

Top three tips for employers looking to attract candidates in the current market

1) Be open-minded about a candidate’s sector experience
2) Be competitive with regards to salary/day rates offered to ensure you get the best candidate
3) Advertise your brand/organisation – applications are then more likely to be from candidates who actually want to work for your brand

Talent attraction and retention

Retaining top talent has become harder. As the market picks up so does the confidence within the candidate population to look at new opportunities. To retain top talent, benchmark benefits offered across various sectors and offer the best range available. Flexible working should be considered and promoted as this is very attractive for particular types of candidates, especially in the public sector.

Looking ahead

The current market behaviour in the public sector is likely to result in a steady headcount within human resources functions where specialist skill sets are brought in on an interim basis for specific projects while day-to-day operations staff are hired on a more permanent basis.
There has been an increase in direct adverts but generally the quality received in applications is lacking. Companies are turning to dedicated specialist recruitment agencies more to deal with the shortage of capable HR business partners and senior HR interims within the public sector and are likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.