Charles Wilson of Penna wrote an interesting piece in a supplement that came with the MJ last week. The article was about embracing digital in the public sector. He gave 7 reasons why it’s hard to attract digital talent into the public sector, one of which struck me as having a much wider relevance when thinking about the future shape of the workforce in local government – it was out of date recruitment processes and means of engaging staff.
The proposition was that the sector needs to recognise that much of its work in the digital space is project based or time limited and therefore it needs to be more willing to hire contractors and interim managers rather that thinking of permanent appointment as the standard approach.
I would take that observation and extend it well beyond the realm of IT and digital. I think that there are in fact many areas of operation with local government where the recruitment of the right people on a permanent basis is hard and where the need for a permanent appointment is not in fact essential, although we usually think it is. Clearly any time limited activity would be prime for this approach, but what is time limited? Why not extend fixed term commissions to management roles in general? That way we might have more success in matching skills and experience to current need and be more able to replace outmoded skills and approaches more quickly.
While I would never advocate the excesses of zero hours contracts in public services I do think there is scope to see more flexible public sector workforce models involving several forms of staff engagement as benefitting both the organisation and the service user/funder.