Public-sector employers struggling to recruit as cuts take hold

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Public-sector employers are finding it difficult to recruit and retain staff as cuts bite and the sector loses its appeal to candidates, according to research published today by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and recruitment group Hays.

The Annual Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey sought responses from more than 500 employers, and found that 82% of respondents had experienced difficulties in filling at lease some of their vacancies during the past few months. This is an increase from 75% in 2011’s survey.

However, the biggest rise in recruitment difficulties was reported by public-sector organisations, with an increase to 82% from 66% in 2011.

The survey found that recruiting managers and senior-level staff in the public sector was a particular problem. Of the public-sector employers surveyed, 28% said that it was especially difficult to fill managerial and specialist positions, with a further 19% reporting difficulties in recruiting for senior manager and director-level roles.

According to the CIPD, pay freezes coupled with a perceived reduction in benefits as a consequence of pension reforms may be responsible for the public sector’s challenge in attracting candidates, with 43% of public-sector respondents citing pay as one of the reasons for their difficulties.

The public sector was also almost three times more likely (24% compared to a 9%) than private-sector services to report that “image” is a problem when attracting recruits.

Across all sectors, respondents said that a lack of specialist or technical skills was the most common reason for recruitment difficulties, with 71% of organisations also highlighting that there has been an increase in applications from unsuitable candidates.

As well as experiencing difficulty in recruiting, two-thirds of respondents also reported that retention of staff has been a problem. Again, public-sector employers are experiencing the worst of this, with 40% reporting difficulties in retaining managers and professional level staff – an increase from 25% in 2011.

Rebecca Clake, research adviser at the CIPD, said: “Headlines focus on high levels of unemployment and public-sector cutbacks, but those stark statistics mask an ongoing struggle for employers to find the skills and experience they need to drive their organisations forward. This is a particular issue in the public sector where, now more than ever, they require talented and experienced individuals at senior levels of the organisation to help steer them through times of change.

“The image of the public sector is putting off some new recruits. This, coupled with widespread pay freezes and pension reform, makes jobs in public-sector organisations less and less appealing to those individuals who have the skills required for the vacancies.”

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