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Public sector sentiment is higher than ever. Now’s the time for organisations to rethink their employer brand

One of the few positive results of the coronavirus pandemic has been society’s new-found appreciation of public service workers.

These unprecedented times have shifted our collective view on what a ‘key worker’ is and highlighted the pivotal role local authorities play in every aspect of life we consider to be ‘essential.’

From rainbows in our windows and claps on our doorsteps to appreciating the people who empty our bins and maintain our public spaces, we are collectively reshaping our understanding of public sector professions — developing a deeper respect for those who undertake jobs that keep society functioning.

If coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s to take nothing and no-one for granted.

Is the widespread public pride and gratitude a short-term phenomenon, or are we seeing a watershed moment for careers in the public sector?

Will we, for example, see the next generation, having borne witness to this pandemic, choose vital careers that really matter and ‘give back’, over more lucrative careers in the private sector?

Similarly, will we see private-sector workers directly impacted by the inevitable economic downturn, flock to ‘safer’, more secure public sector roles?

The long-term appeal of careers in the public sector is, to some extent, dependent how leaders ride these waves of change. But the signs are positive.

Public sector leaders need to build employer brands and galvanise public sector workforces

After a decade of austerity measures and continued cuts to public spending, councils must develop a robust Employer Value Proposition (EVP) that builds on the intangible aspects of public service: intrinsic job satisfaction and the meaningful nature of the work itself.

As well as effectively defining the employer brand message, the messaging also needs to appeal to the talent our public sector so desperately needs.

Over the past 3 months, we’ve seen government ads for careers in care appear on primetime TV and across social channels. Their ‘Care for others, make a difference’ recruitment marketing campaign is designed to actively target people aged 21 to 39 to choose a career in adult social care. Whether this is a perfect approach is debatable. But it is a step in the right direction.

Defining a clear EVP to reflect the draw of a public sector ‘vocation’ can be underpinned by an offering that appeals to existing staff and prospective talent.

If we assume meaningful and challenging work informs people’s decision to work in the public sector, the next piece of the puzzle is to determine what will cement the choice to work for a specific local authority and, moreover, what will motivate them to stay.

As remuneration is likely to be capped due to funding constraints, councils must embrace an EVP that somehow quantifies the unquantifiable.

Guidant Global have worked closely with several private sector customers to develop EVPs that allow them to pinpoint the ‘Give and Get’ of their organisations. In other words, what do they expect their employees to ‘give’ and what will those employees ‘get’ in return?

In running these workshops, one trend has become apparent — remuneration is rarely centre stage.

Instead, companies have refined their proposition by determining what sets them apart from their competitors — be it a flexible approach to work, a comprehensive training and development programme or a clearly defined career path. From this, it becomes much easier to design and manage tactical recruitment marketing campaigns to activate EVPs and attract the precise talent needed.

Tapping into new notions of what the public sector represents

Ideas of what constitutes public service differ across generations, demographics and political views. In the future, public sector organisations need to tap into new notions of what the sector represents to inspire candidates — particularly when it comes to communicating with younger generations.

A strong employer brand successfully and consistently announces an organisation’s social purpose and its benefits as an employer through core messaging and market presence. However, while a carefully defined EVP helps to create the blueprint for a clear brand identity, the advocacy of the brand from employees is where the true value lies. 

This article is an edited chapter from Guidant Global’s latest public sector report addressing some of the biggest challenges we’re facing today. Click the link below to access your copy.

Click to read The elevated role of an MSP in a crisis: a focus on the UK public sector
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