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New skills needed for a more agile public sector

9 December 2013

Employers in the public sector are now putting more value on skills that will help them to develop a smaller but more effective public sector, according to a new report from Hays Public Services, the leading recruiting expert. The report, ‘Innovative Approaches: how the public sector is adapting to meet changing demands 2013-14’, is based on a survey of 785 public sector employers and employees and examines demand for new skills such as collaborating, networking and thinking creatively as well as career prospects, morale, motivation pay and rewards.

The report found that compared to two years ago, the ability to find efficiencies is the skill for which there has been the sharpest increase in demand (84%). Other highly valued skills compared to two years ago are collaborating with other organisations, innovation, creative thinking and problem solving. Over half (57%) said interpersonal and leadership skills such as engaging and motivating staff are now valued more.

David Cairncross, Public Services Director at Hays, says, “Three years after the Comprehensive Spending Review, it is becoming increasingly clear that the public sector needs new and innovative skills. The changing value which employers and staff place on different skills highlights how they are adapting to the needs to develop a smaller and more effective public sector. For example, two thirds of those surveyed highlighted the increased value attached to social media skills, which has grown in value more than for commissioning and procurement, customer service or commercial skills. It is clear that social media has moved far beyond the boundaries of the communication team to become integral to the work of many public servants. In addition, our report found that compared to two years ago, finding efficiencies is the skill for which there has been the sharpest increase in demand together with collaborating with other organisations, innovation, creative thinking and problem solving.”

Hays’ key actions that the public sector employers should take to adapt to the changing environment and secure top talent:

  1. 1. Understand what skills you need: Identify the skills that will equip your staff to meet the demands of the coming decade. Innovating, leading, problem solving, communicating, collaborating and exploiting data and social media are just some of those required.
  2. 2. Attract a diverse range of talent: Employers need to attract staff from different parts of the public sector as well as reaching beyond its boundaries – private sector recruits are essential in strengthening commercial, commissioning and procurement skills.
  3. 3. Invest more money and time in training and development:  As financial and service pressures increase, more money and time is required for investment in training and development. Organisations which emerge from the period of austerity stronger, leaner, more agile and better respected will have the skills for change embedded throughout their structure. Staff development will be universal, continual and inextricably linked to first class leadership.
  4. 4. Develop a sustainable pay strategy: Public sector employers – and the public sector as a whole – need to develop a coherent and sustainable pay strategy that secures both value for money and the ability to recruit, maintain and motivate the people who will get the public sector through the next 10 years. In particular, there needs to be an honest debate about the appropriate rewards for the most senior, high risk posts.
  5. 5. Communicate relentlessly and honestly with staff: With years of change ahead, communication with staff has never been more important. Employees need clear messages about where their organisation is heading and honesty about the difficulties as well as the opportunities. Their views also need to be heard, considered and valued.
  6. 6. Develop leadership skills throughout the organisation: Leadership is still too much of a minority pursuit for a senior elite. Development programmes need to be extended to all levels of the organisation, encouraging a wide range of staff to think creatively about how they can strengthen their contribution to its goals.


About Innovative Approaches: how the public sector is adapting to meet changing demand 2013/14
The survey was carried out during July and August 2013 among public sector staff across the UK. This included local and central government, the NHS and social housing, as well as managers working for private sector firms servicing the sector. A total of 785 people responded to some or all of the questions, of which 231 were responsible for recruiting staff.

To access the report visit

About Hays

Note to Editors
Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Asia Pacific and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe and Latin America. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 30 June 2013 the Group employed 7,840 staff operating from 239 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2013:

– the Group reported net fees of £719 million and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £125.5 million;
– the Group placed around 53,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 182,000 people into temporary assignments;
– 29% of Group net fees were generated in Asia Pacific, 40% in Continental Europe & RoW (CERoW) and 31% in the United Kingdom & Ireland;
– the temporary placement business represented 59% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 41% of net fees;
– Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA

For further press information please contact:
Claire Fowler
T. 020 7200 3760


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