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Moving from public to private

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Given that some 330,000 public sector workers are expected to lose their jobs, it is important employers understand some of the challenges faced by these workers and to look at how the public and private sectors can best work to co-operatively address them.

Support for these workers will be vital if we are to help people to make the transition and reduce the likelihood of longer term joblessness. Hays and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry surveyed 1,435 public-sector employees and 348 private sector employers to understand how these challenges can be addressed.

One of the key issues we found is that both hold a number of misconceptions about each other. Many public sector employees see the private sector as overly target driven and commercial at the expense of customer service. Meanwhile, many in the private sector have a poor view of public sector roles. Public sector workers feel understandably nervous about the shift from a highly defined career path, to an arena were career progression is often up to the individual

Yet these perceptions do not necessarily reflect reality and if unhelpful assumptions can affect performance throughout the recruitment process. Culturally, the public and private sectors have never been closer, even if some differences remain. Major changes in public sector management have been brought about over the last 25 years by factors more typically associated with the private sector.

There is certainly no lack of skills on offer from public sector jobseekers. The problem rests more on perceived mismatches between the expectations of employees and their prospective employers. Public sector workers need to think carefully about the skills they have that will be of real value for prospective employers. They also need to be wary of focussing on job titles and processes rather than on the results generated. Understanding these aspects can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful interview.

Almost all the public sector workers surveyed said they would benefit from guidance about how to promote themselves effectively. It is clear there is an urgent need for government support, to ensure the successful transition of workers from the public to the private sector. Our survey found public sector workers had little awareness of how to network both in offline and online environments. They were also unsure of how to conduct themselves in an informal interview. Practical jobseeking and career planning advice must be provided now in order to support workers who are being made redundant. Statistics show the longer a person is unemployed, the more difficult the return to work will be. A quick transition is therefore, essential in order to limit the social and economic costs associated with long term unemployment.

Private sector employers must also do their part in welcoming former public sector employees. Reviewing their onboarding (induction programmes for new employees) procedures in anticipation of recruiting people from the public sector will help ensure successful transitions.

The extent to which workers in the public sector, and workers and managers in the private sector, are willing to overcome misconceptions about each other will largely determine the success of the migration of such a substantial workforce. Government agencies, public sector employers, the private sector and individual workers all have important contributions to make. It is not too late - but groundwork needs to be underway if the UK is going to benefit from the talent on offer.

Mark Staniland is Director of Hays Career Transition Services

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