Previous Article Next Article Positive image matters in war for talentOn 2 Jul 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Recent research shows that the public sector is seen as overly bureaucraticby potential recruits from the private sector, with outmoded recruitmentprocesses largely to blame. HR professionals are responding by makingrecruitment slicker, sharper and more responsive to candidates Poor image is still one of the besetting problems of the public sector.Recruitment company TMP Worldwide surveyed 1,000 public and private sectoremployees and found less than half of the private survey would take a publicsector post. Positive action is needed.Pressure from consumers, the Government and from local politicians isencouraging councils to become more responsive to their customers and moreserious about improving performance and delivery. It is accepted that councilsare run far better than they used to be and can offer challenging, varied careersacross the professional spectrum. Even salaries are improving at many levels. But local government is failing to get this message across to exactly thekind of people it needs to attract to drive change. While there are manytalented people already working successfully in the public sector, there arestill more in the private sector with the kind of customer-friendly,entrepreneurial and IT literate skills that will help transform the business oflocal government. Yet these people are just not interested. Even when they are, councils areputting them off with poor advertising or long-winded application processes. Our survey, the Image Mirror, commissioned by the Society of PersonnelOfficers in Local Government (Socpo) was carried out in response to worriesthat councils were losing out in the so-called war for talent. We found only 46 per cent of private sector workers would consider a careerin local government, even though the majority rate the sector highly for itsemployment practices and benefits. The training packages and pensionentitlements are thought to be better, but the perceived red tape and politicsare a turn off to the average private sector job hunter. Even those with an interest in working for a local council view it as thekind of secure, if low paid job they would consider once they were over 40 witha mortgage and family to think about. Local government is seen as an old man’sprofession and the typical council officer as wearing an old suit, white socksand carrying loads of files with bits falling out. In a focus group one private sector manager said: “I have been in arecruiting position and local authority people have applied for a job. I knowthis sounds terrible, but you think ‘Well, you’ve been in a sleepy environmentand you have all the skills in the world, but are you going to be able to hackit in the real world?’ ” Equally telling is the condemnation by private sector employees of the waypublic organisations dealt with them once they could be persuaded to apply fora job. Long application forms that candidates could not be bothered tocomplete; bureaucratic recruitment processes that took months to reach aconclusion;boring and wordy job advertisements; a lack of information andcommunication – all delivered using manual systems unchanged since the 1970s. Socpo’s president Francesca Okosi, director of HR at Brent Council,describes the findings as a wake up call to the local government HR professionand has urged councils to make their recruitment policies slicker, sharper andmore responsive to candidates. The medium is the message. Until local government modernises its processes,its image as an employer will remain old fashioned and unattractive. Manypublic bodies are re-engineering the way they give customers and clients accessto their services, but failing to apply these lessons and the technology totargeting and communicating with prospective employees.