Why Values Are Critical For Public Sector Organisations

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, public sector organisations must acknowledge that today's employees are looking for more than just financial reward.  

Research carried out by consultancy Global Tolerance found that almost half of the UK workforce surveyed wanted to work for an organisation that had a positive impact on the world.  Meaningful work has overtaken salary as the deciding factor for many job hunters, and, interestingly, 36 per cent of those surveyed confirmed they would be willing to work harder if their organisation benefited society. 

Many public sector organisations now realise that values and ethics play a pivotal role in attracting and retaining their top talent, but what exactly are these 'must-haves', and what is their role in securing a happy, motivated workforce? 

Aligning Your Goals in the Workplace 

Having a workplace that encourages ethical values and ethics starts with providing a positive ambiance for your employees; and one where their ethos is aligned to that of the organisation. By engaging your employees, you will naturally start to build a team whose values and ethics are in line, and who are willing to pull together to achieve goals. 

Happy employees who enjoy coming to work are inevitably going to be more productive than those who only work for the monetary reward at the end of the month. 

Additionally, in the public sector, it's often even more critical that employees consider their work as more than 'just a job'; ideal employees have feelings of loyalty to the organisation too. 

So, how can you ensure your employees are aligning themselves to your organisational aspirations? 
Making a Difference 

Mercer's Global Talent Trends Study highlighted several factors that some employers seem to have missed recently, the most undervalued and understood of which is purpose.
Employees want fulfilling work; they want to know that what they do makes a difference.  

This sits in alignment with the public sector in many ways and can be exploited positively by employers to engage with the talent they want to attract to their organisation. Remember – a great team starts by hiring those whose ethos is a good match for your organisation. 

Having a sense of purpose allows an employee to feel connected to their work, their peers and their organisation. It boosts motivation, productivity and morale, leading to overall job satisfaction. 

Therefore, to secure a happy and productive workforce, it's wise for employers to follow these steps.

Define Your Values 

The values your organisation holds are a critical lure for talented job seekers. According to Mercer, organisations who demonstrate strong values to employees are likely to attract three times as many candidates to their job vacancies. 
Defining your core values begins with a clear understanding of your overall mission; the best way to serve not only your clients but your employees and the wider community.  

Setting these values in collaboration with employees will maximise the vested interest of all involved and reflect a strong alignment between individuals and the organisation itself. 

In other words, – buy-in from everyone is crucial to make it work. 

For the public sector, ethical choices are paramount to enable employers to fulfill their social responsibilities. Operating with honour and integrity enables your organisation to grow and achieve its goals, and it empowers the organisational 'brand' as someone good to work with – and work for. 

By cultivating a strong image and an excellent reputation, you will be able to attract talented individuals who want to work for an ethical and values-driven organisation, as well as present yourself to the public as an organisation with a mission and a sense of purpose, who values their employees and adheres to their ethos and beliefs—all the signs of excellent company culture, which I would like to talk about next. 
Build Company Culture 

Did you know that around 56% of employees value an excellent company culture fit over salary? 

Company culture has grown in importance to organisations over the last few years, with overwhelming research now suggesting that those with poor company culture are far more likely to fail. 

Having a 'good' company culture in 2020 means nurturing an environment where employees are respected and valued, where a vision shared and worked towards by everyone, and where transparent communication, honesty, support and teamwork are paramount.  

To build your company, culture requires a sense of trust and autonomy.  

One way to do this is to allow your staff to adapt their schedules, where possible, to suit their productivity highs and lows. We all know when we work best – for some its first thing, while for others, productivity is best later in the day. For employees who have the autonomy to arrange meetings, brainstorming sessions, research and practical activities around their energy levels, this is a great way to make sure they can concentrate on specific jobs when they are most productive.  

Providing an opportunity for autonomous decision-making is a great way to lift output overall and additionally, this level of trust results in individuals taking ownership of their work and feeling that they are making a positive contribution to the organisation's goals. 
Show Recognition  

Encouraging two-way communication and dialogue within your organisation will enhance the feeling of community and contribute to your company culture.  

Furthermore, providing a flow of transparent information from management to staff helps build integrity and a sense of 'all being in this together'.
This type of behaviour demonstrates that the organisation places value on its employees, welcomes their contribution, and recognises their impact.  

Expressing gratitude goes a long way - it doesn't have to be a formal recognition or Employee of the Month award – sometimes a simple thank you for a job well done is enough to reward and motivate. 

Provide a Framework  

Establishing your values and ethics as a public sector organisation will enable you to build an influential culture through well-planned policies.  

Ethical procedures will have the added benefit of ensuring your organisation can better manage conflict if required. Following due process can also ease the introduction of change in the workplace: having an ethical code of conduct will provide a framework guiding you and your employees through difficult times. 

Additionally, processes that recognise the need for personal development and training opportunities for all staff will see a higher level of commitment in return from employees who feel appreciated. 

What Next? 

For those employers in the public sector who are seeking to attract and retain employees over the next decade, it's critical to acknowledge the beliefs of the next generation who already make up two-thirds of the talent pool.  

And that means creating a culture and environment of values and ethics that attract talent buy-in. Appealing to employees who are interested in working for you (and not just because they want a job) will help to build a team who are motivated, willing to go the extra mile and believe in what they are doing.  

When this happens, employees stop doing a job, and their work becomes part of who they are; how they define themselves. Their values won't stop when they leave the office. And the benefit that these individuals bring to your organisation play a significant role in ensuring your organisation's future success. 

In short, providing a focus on your values and ethics, and giving employees a sense of purpose, employers in the public sector can significantly improve the acquisition and retention of their valuable employees. 


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.