Related Posts

The return of power-sharing and a fully functioning Executive is great news for Northern Ireland. The Assembly returning will provide direction, allow for ministerial approvals to be put into place, and even more importantly settle the public sector pay dispute. But what about another burning issue? Attraction and retention of talent. In an already strained public sector, one where absence is starting to rise and working days lost is starting to increase, the cost to direct salary costs will only increase too. For example, in a recent report by NISRA  they found that in the Northern Ireland Civil Service alone, 12.3 average working days were lost or in financial terms, £39m or 3.7% of the total NICS annual payroll. And it’s not just in Central Government where this is evident, Ulster University found that Local Councils experienced the greatest loss of working days, roughly 14.2 days which is a rise from the previous 12.3 days.


With pressure increasing on the existing workforce, further reinforced by NISRA finding that 38% of all working days lost were due to mental health issues, the whole of the public sector in Northern Ireland must be able to compete in the “war for talent”. In the short-term, it is essential to be able to attract talent to not only cover absence and illness but in the long-term, public-sector organisations need to have a ‘right-size’ workforce with the right skills to deliver effective public services.


In its most recent Labour Market Outlook the CIPD found that 51% of public sector employers have ‘hard-to-fill’ vacancies compared to 34% in the private sector. And with the CIPD also finding that 82% of public sector employers are planning to recruit, what can they do to overcome their recruitment challenges?


The biggest change public sector organisations can make is the one which is the main frustration for most applicants, the process itself. Seen typically as onerous and time-consuming, public-sector organisations need to change their recruitment processes to match the speed of the private sector competitors and meet the demands of today’s talent. Agility and flexibility in the recruitment process is essential to avoid frustration and processes failing, if candidates need to wait a month to six weeks from the point of application to it being shortlisted, followed by a series of interviews and assessments, there’s quite a high chance candidates will have secured a similar role elsewhere. If today’s public sector organisations want to compete in a market of 932,000 vacancies, they must speed up their processes and avoid their talent pipeline evaporating.


Another area for improvement is around communication, particularly communication of their Employer Value Proposition and development of their employer brand. In the greatest crisis experienced in a generation, the relentless work and unwavering dedication of public sector workers showed their unique contribution to society, being able to articulate to candidates is key. Traditionally, public sector recruitment campaigns were a ‘one-size fits all’, but in today’s talent market, this EVP and more importantly USP needs to be communicated to candidates through tailored messaging, presented in formats easily accessible and delivered using the latest technology to compete. Specificity is key to success, communicating the brand, the mission, how the candidate fits today, and how their career develops tomorrow.


As an approved supplier on the Crown Commercial Services Non-Clinical Staffing Framework and a trusted partner to leading public sector organisations for the past 15 years, MCS Group have developed a deep understanding of the unique challenges of the public sector. We understand the vital role that public sector organisations play in serving our communities, and we are equally committed to helping them find the right talent to fulfil their missions and have a key role in helping the local and central government meet the challenge of securing the skills needed to deliver tomorrow’s public services.


With an experienced team capable of managing large-volume, national campaigns, as well as delivering individual assignments and Executive Search solutions, we continue to enable public sector organisations to meet their resourcing demands through open and fair competition all while sourcing the best possible talent available.


Ready to explore how our public sector solutions can transform your organisation? Take the first step by contacting Adam Stinson, Manager – Public Sector Contracts, to schedule an initial meeting to discuss how we can deliver the talent and skills your project demands.


To find out more about our solutions and to schedule your consultation, reach out to Adam Stinson directly at