From 5th-9th December 2022, iNetwork hosted a series of events focused on Recruitment and Retention within the public sector. Recruitment and Retention has been a long-standing issue within the sector, with our members reporting increased difficulty in attracting and retaining staff to a variety of roles; many citing the draw of the private sector as a key issue. This weeklong series of events was borne from discussions with our member organisations with the aim to explore the challenges and opportunities present within the sector.

There were six events over the five day period, each focused on a specific area within the recruitment process, including two events solely focused on specific areas of the public sector; Cyber and Health and Social Care.


iN The Loop: the Public Sector Skills Gap

The week was kicked off on Monday 5th December with the final episode of the iN The Loop series for 2022, which focused on the Public Sector Skills Gap. We were joined by 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.

There is a separate blog dedicated to this event, which you can read here.


Attracting and Growing Talent in your Organisation

 On Tuesday 6th December, we invited delegates to an event focused on attracting and supporting staff, including some top tips and advice on the recruitment and onboarding process. We were joined by Billy Webster, St Helens Council, Nigel Carruthers, Local Government Association, Rosie Anderson, Honeypot Digital and Julie Davison from North West Skills Development Network.

Billy provided delegates with an insight into the current issues facing the public sector job market and discussed some innovative ways the sector can attract staff, including reviewing the job descriptions, applications, interview process and where to advertise roles. He also spoke about how St Helens have utilised this approach to successfully attract staff and have fostered a culture of openness, personal and professional development to support the workforce to build their skills and confidence, which supports the organisation to retain their staff.

Nigel spoke about how T-Levels could benefit organisations with attracting young people into the workforce, whilst supporting them with obtaining a practical qualification. T-Levels are a new qualification available to young people aged 16-19 and are an alternative to apprenticeships and A-Levels. By utilising the support available from the scheme, organisations can support young people with a work placement and in turn, increase opportunities for the younger workforce within their community and address hard to fill vacancies. The Local Government Association provides guidance and support for organisations who are interested in utilising this scheme, you can find more information about T-Levels here.

Alongside T-Levels, organisations can support the training and development of its staff by utilising the Apprenticeship scheme. Julie provided information on how the North West Skills Development Network offer young people the opportunity to work within the NHS in roles such as Procurement, Finance and Informatics. The Foundation Apprenticeship Programme is aimed at school and college leavers and has a dedicated specialist training programme with a 90% retention rate. Learners are supported within the workplace and receive recognised industry certifications, whilst earning a salary. The Network also offers university graduates the opportunity to access a graduate training programme, DDaT, which has recruited over 130 graduates since 2015, with a retention rate of 93%. You can find out more about these schemes here.

Rosie provided delegates with some tips and advice regarding the recruitment and onboarding of staff from the perspective of a recruitment agency. Rosie has substantial experience in the recruitment of cyber roles and encouraged delegates to consider how their roles are advertised, the content of their adverts and job descriptions and the type of person you are looking to recruit. By considering the needs of the organisation, existing and potential staff and the trends of the job market, employers can make their organisations more attractive to job seekers. She also advised on how to support new recruits by ensuring interview feedback is provided in a timely fashion and that communication is maintained throughout the onboarding process. New hires will feel more aligned with an organisation that has demonstrated their commitment to supporting them to settle into their new role and fosters a culture that promotes communication.


Cyber Skills: Talent Retention and Recruitment

On Wednesday 7th December, the morning session was dedicated to recruitment within Cyber and we were joined by speakers from Plexal, Honeypot Digital, Circo IT and the LGA.

Ruby Motabhoy, Plexal, provided information on how organisations can engage with talent pools, such as CAPSLOCK and DiSH to attract new talent to their workforces and encouraged delegates to consider how accessible their working environment is. There is still a high level of staff turnover in minority groups within the cyber workforce; people need to feel as though they are supported in order for them to thrive within the workplace. By ensuring that reasonable adjustments are made to working environments and practices for those with additional needs, as well as appropriate support and networks, organisations can promote an inclusive and supportive work environment.

The LGA carries out work to support the cyber-resilient digitalisation of councils and the communities they serve and the work is funded by the Cabinet Office and the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. There are 3 main strands to the work carried out by the team: Cyber 360, Skills Uplift and the Workforce Capability Framework. These schemes support councils with training, cyber security support, funding and analysis of data trends within cyber as well as the development of tools for use within organisations. Local Authorities have been encouraged to access these programmes to support with staff training and retention, with 95% of organisations who have applied for funding for this being granted, as of 5/12/22. Please click here to find out more about the support available to Local Authorities with the Cyber workforce.

Mark Wilcox, Circo IT, spoke about the UK’s Cyber Skills shortages and provided information about Circo IT’s fast track training programme. Circo support applicants to access skills bootcamps and build their knowledge and skills around a number of cyber security roles; the training is tailored to individuals existing skills and aspirations and the organisation has a number of partner agencies they work closely with. The training courses are accessible to everyone, despite their backgrounds, and have been successful in supporting many people into employment within the Cyber field. They are the education outreach partner for FORTINET and support approximately 1000 people to access employment within Cyber annually. You can find out more about Circo IT and the Cradle to Cyber programme here.

Rosie Anderson, Honeypot Digital, spoke about the importance of being aware of the job market and the talent your organisation is looking to attract when advertising a role within Cyber. She advised delegates that it is important to consider how your organisation can attract applicants by promoting the benefits of the job on the advert, including salary, groups and training opportunities. Rosie also encouraged delegates to consider promoting Cyber jobs within specialist groups, such as CAPSLOCK and utilising the networks of existing staff.


The Workforce Capacity in Health and Social Care

The afternoon session on Wednesday 7th December, was focused on the workforce within health and social care in England. We were joined by speakers from Social Work England, Tameside Council, Wigan Council and Cheshire and Merseyside NHS.

Matthew Devlin, Social Work England, provided an overview of the social work workforce in England. Social Work England is the governing body of social workers and requires all practicing social workers to register in order to continue using the protected title of Social Worker. Social Workers are required to renew their registration annually, with the renewal period ending on 30th November. Matthew advised that this year, over 96000 social workers have renewed their registrations, however 3740 have failed to do so, which is a 1% increase from 2021. Social Work England are working to review the data from the renewals process and will be using this to consider how best to support the profession, the draft strategy for 2023-26 will be published in the new year and can be accessed on the Social Work England website.

Leanne Jones and Caroline Hardman, Wigan Council, spoke about how Wigan have innovated their recruitment practices across Children and Adults social care following a high number of the workforce leaving their roles to pursue employment within agency roles, as well as changing careers. Following consultation with the leadership and existing workforce, it was evident that traditional ways of recruiting into these roles was no longer having an impact, therefore the council took a new approach to this, including promotional campaigns in gyms, libraries and postal communications, virtual recruitment events and fast track interview and application processes. As a result of this, they have been able to recruit over 70 new social workers within Children’s Services and have been shortlisted for 3 awards, winning 2 of these, for their innovative recruitment approach. This new approach to recruitment is now being rolled out across the social care sector in Wigan and is proving very popular, with a high number of applicants for the roles being advertised.

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council have relaunched and rebranded their Adult Social Care recruitment offer following a review of the workforce and have utilised the experiences and messages from existing staff to promote their recruitment practices. Anna Jenkins and Laura Parker spoke about how Tameside are encouraging their staff to access further training and support within their roles and have utilised the Social Work Apprenticeship successfully with 3 staff successfully completing the course in 2022 and a further 6 currently undertaking this. The Living Well At Home model of care has promoted joint working and communication between Health and Social Care staff and has fostered an inclusive culture. Tameside have invested in their Adult Social Care workforce and encourage collaboration and partnership with the Greater Manchester Social Work Academy to share learning and development, which also promotes the organisation to support Social Work students and to celebrate the successes of the professions that encompass the social care remit.

Julie Gallagher, Cheshire and Merseyside NHS, provided delegates with an overview of the challenges faced by Primary Care, focusing on GP practices. There is a national shortage of GPs and an aging workforce, with many GPs retiring following the Covid-19 pandemic; younger GPs have reported the traditional contracts are not suited to them as they do not wish to operate as a self-employed business with all of the associated risks, as is the traditional GP contract, and locum doctors charging up to £1000 per day. In response to this, there have been a number of national strategies implemented, including the development of Primary Care Networks and sharing of resources between practices. Practices now employ a wider range of clinical roles, including Paramedics, Nurses, Mental Health Practitioners and Social Prescribers and patients are encouraged to discuss the reasons for their call with the receptionist who can then determine who the most appropriate professional would be. Despite this, there continues to be challenges with staffing within Primary Care and a number of patients do not wish to engage with receptionists when calling their GP practice. It is a challenge faced by many practices across the country, however the Trust are working closely with their partners and increasing the training support for GPs and have partnered with local colleges to support students from St Helens to access foundation degrees for medicine who may not have had the opportunities to do so previously.


Representative Recruitment in the Public Sector

The fifth session of the week was a focussed discussion on representative recruitment on Thursday 8th December covering many elements of equality, diversity and inclusion in the public sector and within the recruitment process.

The panel included a range of perspectives within representative recruitment, with three panellists all from different sub-sectors. The panel consisted of Adiba Charlesworth, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Bury Council; Cara Caso, Business Manager, Employability Division, Maximus UK and Karl Robson, Panel Member, LGBT Foundation, GMCA.

The conversation centred around why equality, diversity and inclusion is important, with Adiba stating if the public sector workforce is not representative of the community then services delivered are less meaningful. Karl argued a more diverse workforce is a better workforce as they are broader range of viewpoints and perspectives. Cara added to the debate highlighting it is important not all disabilities are visible and ensure that reasonable adjustment are made for anyone who have a disability. 

The panellists also discussed how recruitment process can be exclusionary, as the public sector is full of jargon that might not be understandable to candidates outside the sector. In addition, all panellists agreed that it was important that each public sector organisations looked at the demographics in their locality to ensure they are representing their community.

There were many more challenges that were discussed during the course of the session including how the public sector can attract a more diverse workforce and how ensure policy is acted upon. This session was hosted as a panel discussion, so there were not any specific slides, the session was however recorded. Click here to view the recording.


Retaining a Talented Workforce

For the final session of the week, iNetwork hosted a session on 9th December focused on retaining staff. We were joined by speakers from Clover HR, GO! Train and Development and Chimp Management.

Kathryn Wileman, Clover HR, provided delegates with some insightful approaches to promoting their staff retention within their organisations. She advised that staff retention is essential for the success of an organisation and supports with promoting a positive culture and engagement of staff. There are a range of drivers that impact on employees, by ensuring the workforce feels safe and supported, staff are more likely to remain in the organisation. Kathryn shared some signs of staff disengagement and the risks associated with this, she encouraged delegates to reflect on their own experiences and consider how they support and listen to their staff and promoted the celebration of successes, appropriate remuneration and flexibility in working practices as 3 key areas to successfully retaining staff.

The Springboard and Navigator programmes have been developed to support women and men within their professional and personal lives, they are gender specific and use psychological research to unlock the attendees aspirations and potential. GO! Train and Develop have delivered these programmes to a number of public sector organisations and the programmes have been running successfully for 3 decades. The Springboard programme is tailored to women’s issues and has been instrumental in providing a safe and supportive environment for women to realise their personal and professional goals by utilising mindfulness techniques and is tailored to look at the entire person, whilst the Navigator programme focuses first on the men’s goals then leads onto more personal exploration. Over 90% of people who have accessed the course have reported they have clear goals as a result, whilst 89% feel more confident within the workplace. The Springboard and Navigator programmes have been utilised by many organisations to successfully retain and support their workforce; you can find out more information here.

The final session of the week was provided by Ben Davies, from Chimp Management, who delivered a short overview of the Chimp Paradox to delegates and encouraged reflection on their own core values and how much time they allow for self-care. The Chimp Paradox was developed by Professor Steve Peters using Neuroscience to assist people to become better versions of themselves. Ben spoke about how the power of your own mind can be a barrier to decision making and how mood fluctuations can impact on productivity and reaching your full potential. By understanding this and using tools to reflect and consider our own mindset, we can develop awareness and resilience and understand how to better manage these thoughts and emotions. The tools utilised within the Chimp Paradox model can support managers to better support themselves and their teams and to promote a more resilient and effective workforce. For more information on the Chimp Paradox, please click here.

All of our events throughout the week were attended by members who were interested in the complexities of recruitment and retention within the public sector. The sessions promoted a safe space for discussion and sharing knowledge. We encourage our members to visit our website and sign up to our mailing list for updates on future events.