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'Austerity is a chance for local authorities to recruit differently'

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Retaining and attracting great staff is essential for success in any organisation – and local authorities are no exception.

What is exceptional for the sector is continued austerity, bringing with it many challenges, most felt by the organisation’s people.

It was thus unsurprising when evidence from the LGA Workforce Survey 2015/16, published March 2017, showed almost three-quarters of councils experienced difficulties in recruitment and retention.

Yet despite unique pressures, the main reasons that employers face staff retention issues are broadly the same across sectors.

Most employers think pay is the main reason people seek new employment, but evidence shows it is not usually the main driver. The factors influencing employees to stay or go are more within employers’ control.

Among them are things like culture, recognition, job satisfaction and flexibility. This was highlighted in the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD’s) employee turnover and retention research last December.

During turbulence or austerity these aspects can be overlooked due to stress or burgeoning workloads, but this is when they are most important. Addressing them is vital to ensuring a happy, resilient, efficient and productive people in the workplace.

Controversial as it may be, we believe councils are now in a stronger position to do much of the permanent executive search process themselves. With the advent of the digital age, local authorities can show brand intelligence internally and externally – key to attracting candidates. This also allows a more commercial outlook when recruiting directly.

Enfield LBC, Rotherham MBC and Aylesbury Vale DC are good examples of this. It will be interesting to see which local authorities take this on across the top corporate employment levels, buying in specific expertise, such as resourcing, assessment centres and technical experts. These could cover the most common reason for any failure: a lack of understanding.

For those looking to engage interims, the main benefits they bring are lessons from other organisations, helping to mitigate risk and better understand how to achieve desired outcomes.

Change is constant within local authorities’ work, so plugging gaps with interim management recruitment is a must. In a fast-moving market one way to boost the odds of success is to engage a specialist recruitment agency.

It is essential to present an in-depth brief. This should cover context and background, role and delivery, applicants’ background and fit, and the process itself.

Responding to specific issues and agreeing on best practice might involve subjective judgments, but most are in the gift of the organisation. If you deliver your staff retention model, turnover will be lower and attraction will follow.

Many clients have been successful in austerity for one simple reason: they have viewed it as a chance to do things differently, and better. While austerity remains, so does the opportunity.

Tom Black, managing director, Hammond Clarke

Column sponsored and supplied by Hammond Clarke

Hammond clarke

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