The elevated role of an MSP in a crisis: a focus on the UK public sector
We cover how MSPs can help public sector organisations better manage their contingent workforce and plan for the future to ensure long-term success.
The elevated role of an MSP in a crisis
A focus on the UK public sector
Managing a workforce in unprecedented times
Client Services Director
Across key public sector professions, a frantic game of catchup is underway. Care workers are in short supply. Refuse collectors are isolating with coronavirus symptoms.
HR leaders are trying to find the talent needed to keep the country going, while simultaneously transforming operations to meet today’s strange world and keeping up workforce morale. This is undoubtedly a difficult situation.
But there are positive signs to glean from these challenging times.
For one, what were once perceived to be 'unfashionable' professions are now getting the recognition they deserve. 'Thank you' notes appear outside the doors of key workers. Tefal dishes and charred saucepans are banged together every Thursday. Rainbows adorn every street.
From Newcastle to Newquay, public sentiment towards essential workers has transformed in a matter of weeks. What were once maligned roles are now rightfully recognised as key pillars in the foundational economy. Despite this, for organisations, challenges persist.
Though funding has increased — with an additional £1.6bn for councils/local authorities, taking the total funding to support councils to respond to the pandemic to over £3.2bn — this is negated by a loss of revenue from business rates, parking fees, leisure activity and council tax.
A decade of chronic spending cuts has also left the public sector with a depleted workforce. And even as unemployment rises in the wider economy, hiring new workers remains a challenge.
But as with any problem, there are solutions. One of which is a strategic and trusted partnership with an MSP.
In this report we’ll cover how MSPs can help public sector organisations better manage their contingent workforce, utilising their extensive supply chains and innovative recruitment practices to find talent where it’s needed.
We’ll also touch on workforce planning and employer branding, both of which will ensure organisations exit this crisis with a long-term strategy for success.
An MSP may not be a solution that will address every issue currently affecting the public sector. But when it comes to talent supply, ensuring compliance, driving cost savings and planning for the future of work, a strategic, trusted partnership with an MSP is not too far away from being a silver bullet.
Overcoming today’s critical challenges
How MSPs can support public sector organisations
Director of Client Solutions
At a time of high resourcing demand where key workers need to be placed as quickly and as safely as possible to support vulnerable people, utilising an MSP can bridge the gap between hiring demand and talent supply.
Ensuring current and future talent supply, it is one of the most effective, cost-efficient ways for local authorities to manage their contingent workforce.
How MSPs address the current shortage of essential workers in the public sector
Effective recruitment supply chain
MSPs work with a huge number of specialist recruitment suppliers, enabling public sector organisations to fill vacancies as and when they need to. With access to real-time market insight, they are also able to adapt quickly to changing requirements.
By having an engaged recruitment supply chain, MSPs fill roles with high quality candidates — reducing an organisation’s time to hire and recruitment costs, while supporting local authorities in making the best recruitment route to market decision and providing jobs for local people.
Innovative recruitment practices
MSPs identify talent gaps and build robust workforces through talent pooling — exploring different ways to find talent by tapping into new areas and challenging traditional recruitment practices.
UK unemployment increased to 5.2% in April – up from 3.9% before the COVID-19 outbreak. This is expected to continue rising during lockdown.
With the vast majority of those who have lost their jobs since the pandemic coming from the private sector, many will have transferrable skills which can be utilised within the public sector. Those who worked in office-based roles could provide back-office support for local authorities, for example.
MSPs not only help local authorities identify roles that need to be filled now, but also predict when workers will be needed for the future. How? Workforce planning.
Working with an MSP to assess the Total Pay Bill and strategically plan the ratio of services between permanent and temporary workers will form a big part in this. While it’s easy to use contingent labour as a short-term sticking plaster, implementing an effective workforce plan will help organisations access the right talent earlier and generate a meaningful competitive advantage.
This will be especially important when lockdowns end and more organisations across the public and private sectors begin to recover.
The benefits of working with an MSP
HR has always played a crucial role in ensuring organisations operate effectively. But since the pandemic, HR’s role has become increasingly vital.
Today, HR teams face more pressure than ever with demand growing across multiple areas. Not only do HR have to spend time supporting and caring for existing employees, but they also need to hire and onboard new teams heavily impacted by coronavirus — notably: housing, homelessness, revenues & benefits, mental health and social care.
Learn how Guidant Global helped Bedford Borough Council recruit a new team of high-quality social workers to ensure that the children in the borough's care received consistent, high-quality support when they need it the most. Read the case study here
With the right working relationship, an MSP relieves an organisation’s HR functions from the complex task of managing a contingent workforce.
Easing the pressure by utilising an MSP enables HR teams to prioritise their people — safeguarding essential workers, supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of staff and ensuring clear communications.
By taking the pressure off contingent workforce management, HR are better equipped to lead people through the pandemic and ensure optimum levels of employee performance while minimising business disruption.
Through a strategic and trusted partnership — where the MSP acts as an extension of an organisation’s HR team — MSPs offer fresh thinking so that public sector organisations can better respond and adapt to the coronavirus pandemic.
Workforce planning in the public sector
Dealing with today, planning for tomorrow
Client Solutions Manager for Public Sector
To successfully build a workforce for the future, public sector organisations’ talent requirements need to be aligned with their strategic goals in order to identify the skills needed to drive growth.
Addressing public sector challenges with workforce planning
Workforce planning plays a pivotal role in delivering improved services. In addition, it facilitates a better response to some of the biggest challenges facing public sector organisations — budget cuts, legislation change and an ageing, skills-short workforce.
In today’s challenging environment, councils often need to re-align resources and in some circumstances, centralise, by expanding staff remits and utilising resources in different areas. Restricted budgets also mean councils need to procure workers that generate cost savings.
A successful MSP partnership is key in ensuring the public pound delivers the best value, recognising a race to the bottom on price doesn’t always deliver the greatest value or aide long-term affordability and sustainability.
Changes in existing legislation, or the passing of new legislation drives the need for more staff in affected areas. Two examples of which are The Care Act 2014, which has further increased demand in social workers and the Homeless Reduction Act 2017, which has highlighted a need for professionals within housing solutions.
Skills shortages and an ageing workforce
Local government has an ageing workforce across many key professions, particularly in social care. This situation is reaching a crisis point across an increasing number of councils.
The ONS reports by 2046, people aged 65 and older will make up 24.7% of the population. Local authorities need to plan ahead to address this problem.
"By 2025, one in three of the working age population will be 50 or over."
Taking a long-term approach in a changing talent market
The talent market today is becoming less candidate-led. When IR35 rolls out in the private sector next year this will also help level the playing field for public sector organisations as they are able to promote purpose above take-home pay. But local authorities still need to take a more strategic, proactive approach to their long-term workforce management plans.
It’s never been more important for local authorities to be well-prepared for the current and expected spikes in demand for key worker roles across social care, revenues and benefits support staff, and change management.
By identifying talent gaps, workforce planning creates greater opportunities for service improvement at reduced costs. More importantly, it facilitates long-term, strategic thinking. As we exit lockdown and the economy begins to recover, local authorities invested in workforce planning will reap the benefits as the competition for talent intensifies.
Building workforce planning around strategic priorities
Many local authorities and councils understand digitalisation needs to happen, and fast. As public services face the challenges of increasing demand with limited budgets, finding new ways of using technology becomes paramount.
Today, there is a greater need to deliver better services while simultaneously driving greater productivity and reducing operational costs. As we are seeing across the British economy, digitalisation plays a big part in this.
But such transformation necessitates attracting new people to build, implement and run these platforms effectively — especially if councils want to ensure they deliver better public services.
Workforce planning has a clear part to play here. If local authorities are to hire and retain the talent needed to make the transition to digital services smooth, seamless and fruitful, a forward-thinking, strategic approach is not a nice-to-have, it’s business critical.
COVID-19 presents questions about the future of funding for local authorities. With no reduction in the demand for public services, the need for local government organisations to diversify their income portfolio becomes more acute.
In order to protect valuable frontline services and ensure positive outcomes for local communities, councils are increasingly turning to commercialisation as an additional income stream to mitigate the effects of austerity.
Some local authorities, such as Bristol City Council, are selling off major assets (in this case Bristol Energy) to cover costs. Others are looking at alternative sources of commercialisation.
This business model requires an innovative and entrepreneurial workforce to develop and drive income-generating solutions, ensuring effective and efficient service delivery. Workforce planning identifies the critical talent categories and skills gaps required to execute these objectives as well as setting out the steps needed to recruit skilled workers.
Public sector sentiment is higher than ever
Now’s the time for organisations to rethink their employer brand
Global Marketing Director
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 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.
Learn more about EVP workshops and recruitment marketing.
Building towards a better, brighter future
Today, however, the role of MSP has become ever more important. As local authorities struggle to keep their workforce afloat — with thousands of workers in isolation, and a limited talent pool to replace them from — MSPs are thinking creatively to ensure that local authorities have the talent they need to survive and sustain essential services.
Forward-thinking MSPs are going one step further. In many cases, strategic workforce planning is being introduced to highlight future talent gaps in the workforce, so that when a crisis hits again, local authorities are better prepared.
At the same time, employer branding strategies are being designed and implemented to make sure public sector organisations are a more attractive proposition to candidates in the future.
It’s unlikely that we’ll ever return to the normal we once knew. But that doesn’t mean the future is set to be worse. Public perceptions of essential workers that have shifted in a matter of weeks are likely to be retained as we exit the crisis.
With the right strategy, public sector work, which is now seen as vital to the public good, can potentially become a career of choice. Of course, getting to that future requires guidance and expertise.
Picking your MSP partner is, in this sense, a difficult decision. Get it right, and you’ll set yourself up for the decade ahead. Get it wrong, and your organisation will continuously find itself under pressure.
The good news? There’s an MSP that fits the bill across every level. An MSP that’s helping to change the face of workforce solutions in the public sector in recent years: Guidant Global.
Get in touch with Guidant Global today to learn how we can guide your organisation through this crisis, and better prepare you for the future.