Faced with a wave of retirements, most countries now find themselves in the unavoidable position of having to plan and orchestrate a large-scale renewal of the public sector workforce.
Along with a new set of expectations from the generation now entering the job market, the idea of employer branding – a concept used by private-sector companies to stand out from the competition – has made its way to the public sector. More than just a communications tool, an employer brand is meant to communicate the values behind the messaging.
A 2017 European study conducted by Estonia found that countries with an “employment-based” (as opposed to career-based) public service were more naturally positioned to find the right messaging.
With strategies often characterised by bold slogans – “Make a difference – Jobs that count” (Finland), “You are Latvia – Get involved and do!”, “Commit yourself to the service of the citizen” (Luxemburg), and “Switzerland, our company” – governments are attempting to improve their image, which can still suffer from negative stereotypes (lack of flexibility, overly linear career paths, little recognition for individual qualifications), making them less appealing as employers.
Taking an informative approach to deconstructing some of these preconceptions, Ireland hopes to attract more applicants. Its recruitment portal features a “Mythbuster” series, where clear answers are published to questions about access to jobs, the hiring process and education requirements. Australia has taken a similar approach with its “Cracking the Code” initiative, designed to reach sceptics who might not think they qualify for a job in government.
As part of Sweden’s Jobba statligt (“work for the government”) initiative, public-sector employers have access to a toolbox to help them use a unified voice to promote jobs and careers, with room to customise messaging to meet region- or job-specific needs. The toolbox includes communications kits, graphics and videos.
The Netherlands’ Werkenvoornederland platform, which hosts public sector job listings, also provides an overview of different careers and outlines the advantages enjoyed by civil servants. There is a focus on salary, job flexibility and career development, the three biggest motivators for applicants.
Other initiatives include:
• In Germany, a website highlighting Die Unverzichtbaren (“essential jobs”) includes a search feature designed to inspire people to find their calling. It matches users to suitable careers based on their priorities (location, working conditions, work environment, skills, interests).
• In Belgium, in an effort to lend new life and visibility to public sector recruiting, the government decided to diversify its approach, advertising its job postings across multiple platforms. It’s a customisable strategy that uses social media and “jobmailings” emailed to targeted candidates.
And why not let public servants speak for themselves? As a strategy, it has authenticity going for it, provided the testimonials aren’t overly scripted or edited. By describing what they do and why they’ve chosen a career in the government, public servants can be the most effective ambassadors, even internally. In France, the founders of interview series Sous le bonnet – representing all three branches of the civil service – are doing their part by posting online interviews with government employees about their jobs.