Why Effective Recruitment Is The First Step To Talent Retention

In the Public Sector, it's vital to acknowledge that the retention of talented individuals begins with an effective recruitment process. 

Of course, new employees bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to an organisation, but losing key talent can see employers lose the in-depth knowledge and experience that only time brings to an individual.  

For public sector organisations, retaining employees is essential to efficiency as training up new employees costs both time and money.  

The government invests in supporting the training in many of the larger organisations, so retaining staff is vital to give value for money to the public purse.
Additionally, for smaller organisations who often have to self-fund internal training programmes for their teams, it's critical to ensure that money is wisely invested in staff who will stay with the organisation. 

Across the public sector as a whole, employees resign for a variety of reasons. Reasons include: 

  • The attraction of new job/position  
  • Unmotivated by the current role 
  • The stress of the current role 
  • Organisational changes 
  • Lack of defined career pathway 

There are actions organisations can take to minimise risk – implementing development plans, addressing stress in the workplace, growing an organisational culture of support and investment, and building a two-way communication process between management and employees are some of the best ways of ensuring you retain your best employees.  

But critically, retention starts with your recruitment process, and in this article, I will share some insights into how you can improve your retention rate by engaging some practical strategies. 
How Can You Improve Retention? 

Fact: good recruiting leads to qualified candidates. So, in effect, your recruiting process directly affects your retention rates.  

To achieve long-term success now is the time to focus on good hiring practices that will convert to higher retention rates.  

Here are the best ways to make your hiring process run smoothly, engage with the right people and ensure a long and happy working relationship with your key employees. 
Take Charge of the Process
Start by taking a proactive approach. It’s prudent to invest in processes and systems that will target, attract and hire the right person for the role; the first time. 

It's crucial to understand the motivations of an individual candidate -what makes them want to work for your public sector organisation, are they genuinely excited about the work you do and are their beliefs and ethos in line with your own? By understanding your own organisational values and culture, you can match the right candidate effectively. 

Additionally, think about what you can offer in return in terms of a fulfilling career, diverse workplace and exciting development opportunities.  

By organising and streamlining your hiring process, you will ensure you are giving the process of talent acquisition the attention it deserves and needs to work well.  

So, build in initial time to plan your hiring strategy and layout your process. 
Streamline Your Approach 

Look at the processes you are currently using, and consider if you could develop a more systematic approach to your hiring process. 
Do you have detailed job descriptions?  

Have you considered the transferable skills you need?  

Are you asking the right interview questions

Practically speaking, for larger organisations that anticipate receiving a lot of applications, it’s also worth considering investing in an application tracking system as this will speed up the process and enable a more streamlined workflow.  

Additionally, have you considered competency-based interviewing?  

This type of interview will identify behaviours and attitudes that align to your organisation. It will allow you to examine a candidate's own aspirations and confirm if their career ambitions can be met by you, as an employer. It will also give a clear indication as to whether those aspirations tie in with your succession plans and organisation development strategy. 

Widen Your Network 

From talent pipelines to social media presence  - there are many ways to create and widen your pool of candidates. 
You could promote your excellent reputation online and encourage followers to share your stories (and vacancies!). Growing your own talent pipeline will also help save you time by providing instant access to potential candidates. 

If you are working with a specialist recruiter, you will have access to their pipeline which will contain many active and passive candidates, some of whom could be ideal for your vacancy. 
Create a Good Impression 

Making the application and interview process easy to navigate will create an excellent first impression and imply your overall professionalism to the candidate. 

When posting your vacancy, remember to portray a realistic overview of the position – don’t oversell or minimise aspects of the role.  
A disgruntled or unhappy new employee is likely to look for alternative employment reasonably quickly, so always make sure you are clear in what you are offering. 

Also, key when creating that all-important first impression is to remain flexible with your candidates – such as in accommodating them for interview. If they are super keen but unable to make your scheduled interview date, it might be worth fitting them in at an alternative time – if they seem ideal for the role you don’t want to miss out on what could be your perfect hire for the sake of a day or two. 
Demonstrate Career Progression 

No employee is going to stay with an organisation that doesn’t invest in their future. 

With today’s employees keen to climb the career ladder, it's vital to offer a transparent progression route which shows how they can progress with your organisation.   

LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report showed a huge 93 per cent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. 

Additionally, a study on millennials in the workplace found that the number one factor that they consider before taking a new job is if they will be trained and developed in their role. 

What opportunities does your organisation offer?  

On the job training, mentoring and upskilling can all be implemented without a high cost to the organisation when planned well.  

Successful organisations who invest in their employees in this way reap the rewards of a motivated and invested team. By providing and developing individual plans for your employees - starting with the onboarding process (more on this later), you can monitor progress, celebrate milestones and achieve happy hires who will remain in your employment long term. 

Communicate During the Hiring Process 

During your hiring process, remember to keep in touch with candidates regularly.  
Communication could include automated emails advising of the next round of interviews, news about what's going on in the organisation or inviting them to join your sectors LinkedIn page.  

Whatever methods you employ, keeping your candidates ‘warm’ means regular messaging, so they don’t lose interest.  
Invest in Onboarding 

Once you have made your selection from all the applicants and your new employee has accepted the offer, it’s not time to relax just yet!   

Developing a personal development plan for your new employee, as well as considering wellbeing opportunities and your organisational culture will help lay the foundations for employee retention.  

Research by Harvard Business Review shows that a good onboarding process reduces the average amount of time to reach full performance (making critical decisions with the right information in hand and having the right people in place to help execute) by a third, from six months to four. So, a great onboarding process will save you time and money. 
From posting your job vacancy to onboarding, following the above strategies will help individuals feel part of something bigger than themselves, create buy-in to your organisation and instil motivation and inspiration in a team that’s committed to working in your public sector organisation for the long term. 


Heather Clarke 

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About Harris Burns  
Harris Burns are specialists in Executive Search and Senior Finance appointments within the Public Sector; with particular expertise in NHS, Housing and Charity Sectors.   
With over 60 years' combined experience, we have extensive knowledge of the market, proven track records and established networks, allowing us to provide a wide range of services to both clients and candidates alike.  
To learn more about how we can support you to either build your team or career, contact us on 01952 743243.