Traditional civil service recruitment methods are often not “proactive or productive enough” to attract the right candidates and need to be revised, a recruitment adviser at the Government Digital Service has said.
According to Aytan Hilton, the interim cross-government recruitment advisory lead at GDS, the civil service needs to make better use of new technologies, and data, as well as addressing the varying levels of digital recruitment experience across departments.
“We need to increase our specialist recruitment capability internally, and be less reliant on generalists carrying out all parts of the process,” he wrote in a post on the Digital People blog.
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“By doing this, we’ll be more effective as an organisation and the trickle-down effect will be optimal on-boarding and retention of talent. It will boost government’s reputation as a destination of choice for digital, data and technology professionals.”
In comments that echo concerns about the difficulty the civil service has in competing with the private sector, Hilton said that the government’s recruitment approach “must evolve” to meet the expectations of the people it wants to attract.
“The UK government is working on some of the country’s largest and most exciting digital initiatives, geared at improving people’s lives. However, while this is a strong lure, we can’t assume that this is enough,” he said.
“Traditional methods of recruitment don’t always satisfy our needs,” he added. “Posting a job advert online and hoping that the right candidate will stumble across isn’t proactive or productive enough.”
Hilton – who is working as part of a cross-government group to establish best practice recruitment advice – said that government recruiters needed to be “more active and innovative” in hiring. from the digital sector.
This includes using “contemporary methods and technologies” that might encourage professional referrals, such as social media aggregators and blogs, forums and events.
In addition, Hilton emphasised the importance of making better use of data, which comes from a range of sources, including HR departments, suppliers and market intelligence, to create more focused recruitment plans.
“It’s important that we harness technology to our advantage,” he said “The ultimate aim is that candidate and recruiter should be always be within easy reach of each other.”
Hilton’s blogpost however, made no mention of concerns about public sector pay caps, which are often cited as a reason that Whitehall cannot compete with the private sector, especially when there are a number of tech-focused companies with ethical ideals that align with those of many civil servants.
For instance, the Co-op has attracted a large number of former digital civil servants, with the most recent recruit being former GDS chief executive Stephen Foreshew-Cain, who said in October that the organisation’s thinking was in line with his own.
“There’s a reason that I’m not the first (nor probably the last) public-sector employee to find that the values and the purpose of The Co-op resonate,” Foreshew-Cain said on his blog at the time.
“As a ‘career consultant’ prior to joining government, I can say that it has a different DNA to other large commercial organisations I’ve worked with. And I think that’s important.”
He added: “I didn’t think I’d find as exciting and inspirational a challenge as the one GDS had presented, but I was wrong.”