The importance of brand in the search for talent

Steve Wilson of Commercial Services Group says councils can start to build a true talent pipeline if they can develop their own employer value proposition.

Steve Wilson says councils can start to build a true talent pipeline if they can develop their own employer value proposition

Some readers may wonder what brand has to do with councils but in our experience it is a crucial area to help recruit and retain staff, particularly contingent and temporary staff.

After holding a series of roundtables with chief executives and heads of recruitment with councils from across London, the South East, the Midlands and Northern England it was clear there were not only common challenges, but many of those challenges came back to the strength of the council's reputation as an employer in the local area.

The public's attention has been drawn, for all the wrong reasons, to local government – particularly in terms of finance – and this inevitably negatively impacts recruitment.

Whether you call it brand or reputation, what can councils do to more effectively communicate their employer value proposition (EVP) to prospective candidates?

The benefits of working in local government were probably quite obvious in the past; decent salary with a good pension, stable working environment, training and career development and the added bonus of working in the local community.

However, most of these values have been erorded in recent years which, coupled with competition in the wider job market, has created a real challenge for councils to recruit and retain quality staff.

And while councils deliver similar services, each is different by virtue of their local community.

While there has been discussion of local government-level campaigns akin to those in the NHS and armed forces, there is most definitely still a need for councils to develop their own EVP reflecting their local area.

By investing in their own EVP and communicating effectively the opportunities, particularly for high demand areas such as adult social care and social workers, councils can start to build a talent pipeline.

We have signficant experience of the difference that a strong EVP makes through the creation of our joint venture contingent recruitment businesses.

By working closely with our council partners in Hampshire, Luton, Surrey, Dudley, Dorset and our shareholder Kent, we invest significantly from the outset to establish the joint venture's recruitment brand in the local market.

We do this by developing a unique brand, rolling out a dedicated website and spending time developing social media channels as well as investing in local relationships. This investment in brand has seen candidate engagement levels rise by an average of 24%.

We focus on recruiting teams from the local area and these roles have attracted candidates from the private sector who see the opportunity to work for a forward thinking and social values-driven organisation.

Who would have thought more than 100 highly talented recruitment consultants would have made the leap from the private sector into council owned companies?

By working only for the council, the staff are passionate about that council and promoting the opportunities therein. The teams are also locally based so that they can devote time to engaging with hard to reach members of the community, such as working with the third sector.

The teams raise the profile of the opportunities by going to careers fairs and school open days, and the use of the latest marketing channels also helps to reach a younger audience who perhaps wouldn't otherwise see roles in local government.

The draw for young people in particular has been the societal impacts they can make by taking a role in the sector.

Reflecting the differences across local government, councils have gone down the route of a joint venture for very different reasons.

One of our partners wanted better control over the quality of their social workers and their joint venture has focused on building relationships, investing in training and development, leading to extended contract periods all done with the knowledge that they were much more likely to retain them in a role.

These outcomes are better for the resident, better for the candidate and ultimately better for the council and has led to improved temporary to permanent rates.

Another of our partners recognised their existing outsourced model had delivered all the savings it could only a different approach would help them make additional savings the council needed delivering.

In addition the surplus returned is invested where the council needs it to be rather than going into pockets of private shareholders. Again a win win.

All this has shown us that investment in brand delivers long-term benefits and it's a cliché but the results speak for themselves.

We have reached more than 1,800 local residents through our joint ventures in addition to the 100+ new, local, roles the joint ventures have created themselves.

Our partner councils have benefited from sharing a surplus of £3m alone last year which is reinvested in community wealth building projects and frontline services which, in turn amplifies the draw for private sector recruiters who are looking for societal benefits in their work.

Steve Wilson is commercial director of Commercial Services Group


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