iNetwork hosted its final iN The Loop webcast discussion of 2022, on Monday 5th December. The session kicked off recruitment and retention week, which was a weeklong series of events and discussions exploring the complexities and challenges of recruitment and retention in the public sector.

The speakers for the session were Lauren Collins, director at Social 1st Recruitment; Sarah Eckersley, HR, OD and Skills Officer at Trafford Council and Sharon Senior, Executive Director at North West Employers. With the speakers being from a range of sub sectors, it made for a well-rounded in-depth discussion covering a range of challenges around recruitment and retention. Many iNetwork members are reporting challenges around recruitment, specifically finding the right candidates with the relevant skills and experience to fill more senior roles within the public sector.

Sharon began the conversation by explaining some of the key challenges faced in the sector, stating the recruitment market has not been this challenging for several years. Sharon mentioned a high number of senior staff have moved within the public sector or left for the private sector as a result of the wide adoption of hybrid working meaning people can work in a wider geographical area. Sharon also mentioned there is a diminishing pool of people with the right knowledge due to staff retiring, which has affected all sectors of the public sector.

Picking up on the same theme, Sarah added Trafford council are struggling to recruit into several different roles, stating people’s expectations and priorities towards work have changed as a result of the pandemic. Sarah mentioned that she believes the problem is more apparent in the public sector due to budgetary pressures, with the workforce already being quite lean. In addition, Sarah discussed the ageing workforce and due to the diminishing pool of knowledge in the public sector, councils are drawing on the same groups of individuals to fill their mid-senior roles.

Lauren, who is a director of a recruitment firm in the social care sector, spoke specifically about the challenges in the adult and social care sector. Lauren, who has been in the industry for over 15 years, stated that the sector is particularly tough to recruit into. She mentioned many practitioners are leaving social care and many in the sector are not renewing their licence to practice in the sector. In addition, Lauren mentioned the bad press that the sector has received over the pandemic has not helped attract younger people to the adult and social care sector.

The conversation shifted to discuss recruitment practices, panellists agreed that the public sector needs to challenge the traditional ways it recruits into roles. Sarah highlighted that values and behaviours are just as important as experience in the public sector and suggested that values-based recruitment could be a good way forward to recruit a more diverse range of skills into the public sector. Sharon suggested the public needs to move quickly to attract top talent and it is important that public sector organisations streamline their processes to onboard new staff efficiently. Sharon continued mentioning some of the bureaucratic processes along with lengthy application processes could be potential barriers to joining the public sector.

Between April and December 2022 the iN The Loop webcast series tackled and discussed some of the key trends and challenges in the public sector. The series has brought together more than 20 expert speakers from across iNetwork’s membership and beyond. Many of the topics have been discussed as a direct result of member feedback. The series has explored best practice and knowledge on key issues such as the cost of living crisis, the Ukrainian conflict, the transition to Integrated Care Systems as well as many other topics. All of the content from the discussions is still relevant and available to catch up on, please visit the dedicated iN The Loop page to catch up on the 2022 series.

The iNetwork team has completed the delivery of the iN The Loop series for 2022. The series will return in April 2023, for more in-depth conversations on the big challenges affecting the public sector. The series will form an important part of the iNetwork delivery for 2023/24 and will be directly informed by the priorities of each of the iNetwork’s core programmes. For more information on up and coming news and events visit our website: