How to Better Manage Public Sector Workforce Churn

 In Evolution of Talent

Public sector employers are set to hire at twice the rate of the private sector, according to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey. This represents the biggest public sector lead in hiring intentions over the private sector in eight years. Big gaps in public services like the NHS are driving much of the demand, while businesses are adopting a more cautious approach.

Nonetheless, while public sector employers may plan on increasing headcount over the coming months, they are struggling to fill the vacancies that already exist. Take the NHS as an example. They’re Europe’s largest employer, with a workforce of 1.1 million workers. Yet 100,000 posts remain unfilled. Before they can consider increasing headcount further, action needs to be taken to fill these existing vacancies.

It’s not just the NHS that is facing huge shortages of talent, either. We have recently seen the Government launch a campaign to help fill 110,000 vacancies in the adult social care sector. Civil service hiring is set to continue apace through the summer, too.

An Ageing Workforce

One of the reasons why many public sector employers are struggling to fill existing job vacancies is because of their ageing workforce. This can be seen in all corners of the sector.

In the NHS, the BMA reports that 47% of staff are aged 45 or over, and nearly half of GPs are over the age of 45. Looking at the police, almost half of officers are aged over 40, compared to around two-fifths in 2007. Significantly, the Police Foundation also reports that there are signs that a large cohort of officers are passing from their 30s into their 40s whilst remaining in the same rank. This may reflect the relatively small number of promotion opportunities that have been on offer in recent years.

Finally, in the Civil Service, the Institute for Government outlines that the average age of the workforce has risen from aged 44 in 2010, to aged 46 in 2018. More civil servants are in the 50-59 year old age band than in any other, and this number has increased since 2010. In the Ministry of Defence and Department for Work and Pensions specifically, nearly half of workers are aged over 50.

Civil service age distribution

Impact On The Workforce

When the CIPD asked HR professionals in the public sector whether they expect the ageing population would have an impact on their people management policies and processes in the next five years, 73% predicted it would. Many areas will need to be adapted: working hours, pay structures, training and development offerings; performance management processes, and more.

Perhaps most striking, though, is what will happen when these workers retire. The sector hasn’t typically been very effective at managing workforce churn over the years. And, with so many workers due to reach retirement age in the next decade, this problem is only going to be exacerbated if action isn’t taken now.

In many areas of the public sector, job vacancies are advertised and filled internally via promotions. When these promotions occur, poor workforce planning processes mean there isn’t always a comprehensive plan to back fill their old roles. As a result, when workers reach the end of their career and retire, their significant skills, knowledge and experience are lost – there often isn’t someone immediately available to step in and fill the void.

Over time, these factors have created a huge backlog of job vacancies. This needs to be tackled, before public sector employers can realistically think about creating more new jobs to fill.

Managing Workforce Churn

Apprenticeships are one potential solution. By encouraging older workers to mentor new talent through a well-structured apprenticeship programme, their skills and knowledge can be passed on to other areas of the workforce – and not lost entirely when they retire. It also means these apprentices will be better able to step into the shoes of older workers when they reach retirement. What’s more, since the public sector is behind on its apprenticeship target, this approach could support here too.

Another area to consider to help manage workforce churn is a Project RPO. With better succession planning and a more comprehensive approach to back filling vacancies, the public sector will be better positioned to manage workforce churn. With the support of an outsourced recruitment provider, public sector employers can get their existing job vacancies filled more effectively – making the planned increases to headcount a much more efficient affair.

At ManpowerGroup Solutions, our RPO solutions are flexible, scalable, and can encompass anything from talent sourcing, to selection, to onboarding – and everything in between. That’s why leading industry analysts Everest Group recognised us as the global RPO leaders for seven consecutive years; while Nelson Hall named us the Largest Global RPO Provider for four years in a row.

Learn more about how our RPO solutions can help your public sector organisation better manage workforce churn by visiting the ManpowerGroup Solutions website.