So much has been written recently about how the world of recruitment and general HR practice will undoubtedly change as a new norm settles, but one element that might not is the never-ending challenge for local government to find the right talent to fill its critical middle management and hard to fill posts.
A strategic search and selection approach tends to be the tactic for executive appointments. And for lower level officer posts more traditional advertising approaches, such as using the councils’ own job pages and other job boards, tends to be the normal route.
But it is for roles in-between that the sector seems to struggle, and when we ask chief executives and their top tables what keeps them awake at night, recruiting middle managers and specialist roles is often cited.
And, let’s be honest, this worry is justified.
The challenges the sector has to overcome are varied but obvious. More competitive salaries for comparable posts are in the main offered by the private sector, while working for local government still isn’t seen as being quite as sexy; qualified candidates are hard to find, and there are genuine skill shortages for many roles, such as social care and planning. In addition, as the sector has transformed over recent years (and undoubtedly will again post pandemic), many councils want a new breed of talent possessing different skills to before. Yet identifying and attracting this talent is tricky.
These management level roles are what we often refer to as the ‘glue’ in organisations. They make the difference, provide technical specialisms and deliver key services to residents.
I’ve been humbled to see managers step up to the forefront of the sector’s emergency response. These people are important. So getting it right and reducing agency spend is essential.
Here at Penna we’ve found that a more blended and strategic recruitment strategy for specialist or difficult to fill roles is proving successful. Think traditional recruitment mixed with digital, reaching both active and passive candidates in a cost-effective way.
The passive market is gold. They represent 85% of the candidate market, are regarded as top performers; fully engaged and productive in their current role. Reaching those who are receptive to moving for the right career opportunity but are not necessarily actively looking takes more than attraction, it takes direct sourcing.
Basildon Council had a requirement to recruit to multiple key roles across numerous different directorates. From HR consultants, to commercial managers, to accountants, to an organisational development manager, to a strategy, insights and partnerships manager; these were all roles that they had struggled to recruit using only job board and attraction tactics.
Basildon, in partnership with Penna, invested in a more proactive candidate sourcing approach to target candidates based on location and with specific skill sets, experiences, qualifications and, as importantly, reach a passive market.
Through a blended direct candidate sourcing and performance media approach, which included The MJ’s reach into the local government market, Basildon shortlisted more than 90 candidates and appointed to ten roles across three directorates, and in doing so reached a more relevant, richer and more diverse pool of talent. From selection to appointment the average time to hire was 23 working days which matches up against all industry averages. The average cost sitting at just over £4,000 per hire.
We’re encouraging our clients to think about this crucial shift in recruiting strategy. Without middle managers, we’d have no delivery, no resident satisfaction and, arguably, no local government. So…is it time for a change of approach at your council?
Jon Dilling is Penna’s sourcing lead