Hays UK jobs and employment blog


Harnessing the power of purpose in the public sector

By Matt Lewis, Director of Hays Public Services

We are currently living through a unique period in history – one in which there is little to no precedent to draw on as we make strategic decisions that will potentially have extraordinarily far-reaching impacts.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that one of the legacies of this time will be the spotlight that the pandemic has thrown onto the public sector, and the way in which people perceive it both as a vital service, and as an employment prospect.  

How has the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated demand for talent in the public sector?

Public sector organisations are now under more pressure than ever to deliver a service that meets overwhelmingly high demand in all areas. With the private sector currently in a transition phase as the global economy adjusts to the impact of the crisis, the disparity in recruitment needs is clear. According to our Market Insights: Covid-19 Snapshot, nearly half (46%) of public sector organisations are currently recruiting staff in comparison to only a quarter of those in the private sector.

It’s clear that for public sector employers, recruiting the talent required to help deliver this crucial service has never been more important or more time-sensitive, and harnessing the storytelling power of purpose will be vital in order to appeal to the candidates they need.

How has the pandemic highlighted the importance of having a job with meaning?

The findings of our recent Wellbeing Matters Report, which surveyed over 16,000 professionals across the UK, showed that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly a quarter (21%) of professionals now want to work for an organisation with greater purpose and social responsibility. This represents a unique opportunity for public sector employers, who have long struggled to compete with the private sector in terms of salary and reward offerings, to showcase the meaningful work that their vacancies provide to candidates.

This single moment in time and the chance it provides for public sector employers to tell the story of their organisation’s purpose has presented itself via the sweeping national goodwill towards keyworkers and appreciation of the civic impact that their work has made throughout the course of the pandemic and ensuing lockdown.

The crisis has in effect rebooted the priorities of our society, demonstrated in the levels of engagement that people have shown with community initiatives such as the NHS Volunteering Scheme, to which 750,000 people applied.

How can you grasp this chance to articulate your unique purpose?

The shift in candidate priorities leaves public sector organisations with a clear path ahead, and finding meaningful ways to convey their value will be key if they are to incite the most skilled and experienced professionals to apply.

For public sector professionals who are directly involved in helping people, such as those working in health and social care, seeing the impact they make on the lives of others is an everyday occurrence, but the contribution those with different skillsets make to their organisation’s overall purpose can be more subtle. Putting this narrative at the heart of your employee value proposition will be crucial for those employers looking to recruit, which may mean making its meaningful nature abundantly clear throughout the application process.

For example, tech professionals required to manage a digital transformation project for a healthcare provider might be much more attracted to the role if they understand how the successful completion of the work will help staff deliver clinical care and the improved outcomes this may have for their patients. Alternatively, senior finance professionals may be more likely to apply for a leadership role at a local council if they are told exactly how their governance and budget management skills will help deliver essential services to people who need them.

How can you convey your purpose through your employee value proposition (EVP)?

The meaning and value of the work your organisation is doing should be the golden thread that links every stage of your application process together. Conveying it through your ‘Employee Value Proposition’ (EVP) – which is essentially what you are offering to a candidate in return for the skills and experience they bring – can be achieved by auditing the applicant experience from the initial advert to the onboarding experience to ensure it reflects the purpose you are trying to convey.

All your candidate touchpoints throughout their application process, from job adverts to recruitment microsites to the induction process, should reiterate to applicants just why they are going to be doing what they are doing, and how it will contribute to your cause. This could take the form of a case study, a video testimonial or an introductory tour of the facility or institution they might be helping to support.

Furthermore, to illustrate the way you apply your wider purpose internally, you could also highlight any employee benefits common to public sector workplaces such as mental health support or external training opportunities when promoting your role, reflecting your aim of making a difference and acting in the public interest by investing the same level of care in your own staff.

The purposeful nature of your work and how, as an organisation, you intend to continue to deliver a meaningful service to people in this new world when they need it most, should be central to the story you tell to your candidates, helping them to visualise the impact they could make and see just how rewarding a career with you could be.     

If you have any questions or require support with promoting your public sector vacancies in the new era of work, please contact your local Hays consultant.

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.


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