The public sector is reaching an inflection point. Halfway through the UK government’s deficit reduction programme, public services have coped well with the strain placed on budgets. However, in many cases the hardest decisions are still to be made.
Our “State of the State” report found many of its leaders are proud of what they have achieved so far – in terms of balancing the books and maintaining performance. Yet, they are worried about the risks and uncertainty in the years ahead.
Public sector workers will undoubtedly play a key role in this period of transformation.
Executives told us that staffing issues are occupying more of their time as they struggle to attract, recruit, and retain people for crucial positions. The best way to tackle that is by harnessing the public sector’s power and diversity as an employer.
The public sector has what it takes to remain an attractive career prospect for many people, particularly in Scotland. After all, its organisations protect the public, improve people’s wellbeing, and can literally save lives.
This is an intangible quality, but one of incredible potency. Many people are attracted to working for public services by the opportunity to make a real difference.
Its diversity is another of its biggest strengths. More collaboration between different government bodies and increased flexibility in moving between organisations could help attract professionals looking for a broader playing field.
These are just a couple of the ways the public sector can attract new talent, but it also needs to manage the people it already has.
Allowing public sector organisations more entrepreneurial freedom through the adoption of alternative delivery models is one option.
Another is making sure that the most appropriate staff are used for each of the diverse projects undertaken by public services.
By taking some of these steps, the public sector can attract, retain, and make the most of its people. At a time of stretched resources, they have seldom been more important in helping public services overcome the challenges they face.
• Angela Mitchell is head of local public services at Deloitte