Hays UK jobs and employment blog


Is reward benchmarking the key to attracting and retaining public sector talent?

By Matt Lewis, Director Hays Public Services


The importance of reward cannot be underestimated when it comes to engaging new talent, and the public sector has long found it difficult competing with private sector employers when it comes to remuneration.

Budget cuts, pay caps and an uncertain political landscape have all impacted salary increases, but as the sector continues to be challenged by ambitious targets and the delivery of widespread transformation projects, the importance of attracting talent with the skills and experience required to realise them has never been more crucial.

Why is salary benchmarking important?

In order to be in with a competitive chance of securing the very best talent, salaries need regular benchmarking to ensure they align with current market rates.

A rounded employment offering that includes strong remunerative reward will provide access to the widest possible pool of talent, but worryingly, according to the latest Hays UK Salary & Recruiting trends research, only 24% of public sector employers increased their employees’ salaries by more than 2.5% in the past 12 months, which is significantly lower than the 38% of private sector employers who did the same.

This trend looks set to continue in the year ahead - only 66% of public sector organisations plan to give their employees pay rises in the coming 12 months in comparison to 72% of those in the private sector, showing a crucial misalignment between sectors regarding financial recognition and reward.

But is it only about pay?

Whilst salaries might historically lack a competitive edge, the public sector is known for providing other benefits that have given them an advantage over private sector organisations.

Many professionals want to feel that the work they are doing is worthwhile and that they are making a tangible difference to people’s lives, and this can make public sector jobs, such as those in local government departments or the healthcare sector, an attractive proposition. Further to this, opportunities for flexible working alongside a less obviously competitive working atmosphere can make the public sector appealing to many professionals looking for steady career progression.

What should public sector employers do to attract and retain top talent?

Whilst there is a worrying disparity in remunerative benefits between the public and private sectors, the issue of what constitutes ‘reward and recognition’ is one that can be addressed more easily by public sector employers despite pay caps and budget constraints.

Asking for employee feedback and ascertaining how they want to be recognised for their success and efforts will help organisations tailor reward propositions, other than salary, that are able to compete with private sector offerings. These might include childcare voucher schemes, healthcare provision or travel discounts, and for large workforces, the greater number on offer the better.

This will also help to make the schemes less prescriptive, meaning that employees are more likely to engage with the benefits that work for them personally, and go the extra mile when delivering on objectives.

To discover how your salaries and benefits weigh up for 2020 and for further insights into recruitment trends for the coming year, request your copy of the Hays Salary Guide 2020.

About this author

Matt Lewis, Director Hays Public Services, has worked in specialist recruitment since 1994, the last 10 years of which have been spent working specifically with the public sector. Matt’s role has developed into leading MSP and RPO recruitment solutions to best position organisations to attract and retain high quality talent.



Wellbeing training

This lockdown, give your staff the support they need, sign up for free staff training from Hays Thrive.
Sign up now


My Learning

My Learning is your portal for free training courses to support you throughout your career and get you market-ready for your next job search.


Hays Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Report 2020

In our latest Equality, Inclusion and Diversity Report, we explore whether flexible working can help create more diverse workforces and more inclusive workplaces.


Job search

Search for a job

Looking for a new role? Search here for your ideal job or get in touch with one of our expert consultants.


Register a job

Register a vacancy

Have a vacancy? Fill in your details here.


Contact us

Find your nearest Hays office

Hays has offices across the whole of the UK. Contact us to discuss your employment needs.