Public sector struggles on staff front

by 11 Nov 2008

THE PUBLIC sector is struggling to provide the same remuneration and career progression as other organisations, making it increasingly difficult to compete for staff.

The recent IPPA Queensland Annual Public Sector Conference outlined the main challenges facing the public sector and the type of talent and staff that will be required to create a more modern, efficient and effective public service.

CEO of the IPAA Peter Rumph said that the main message coming through at the conference was that people working in the public sector can no longer operate in a vacuum, and can no longer rely on traditional methods of developing policies.

“Proper and effective policy needs community input as well as a broad understanding of the needs of the private sector and a deep engagement with universities and other academic institutions,” said Rumph.

Rumph also believes the future public servant will be well educated, will have spent time working in the private sector and will be a “nimble thinker” who is capable of implementing complex public policy decisions and agile enough to adapt those processes to cope with unforeseen influences.

“You only need to look at the impact of the current financial crisis and how it affects every aspect of public policy to see the true need for such qualities,” said Rumph.

Naomi Puchala, who is completing a PhD in graduate attraction and retention, spoke about the battle for graduates in the Queensland public sector. She said that while the sector has many benefits to offer, it can struggle to provide the same remuneration and career progression as other organisations.

“Attraction is a challenge for the sector – as it is for every organisation. Talented staff are in high demand, particularly in areas where there are skills shortages,” said Puchala.

“Whilst the public sector has many things to offer – including flexibility, mobility, family friendly policies, and an opportunity to make a difference –it can’t always compete equally on the remuneration front,” she said.

Puchala said other challenges facing the sector are recruiting people who have a genuine desire for the public good and want their work contributions to make a real difference. However with regard to staff retention, she said the public sector could find it a challenge to offer career progression. “This is true particularly in regional areas – and government priorities can change depending upon community focus.”

Rumph believes people are the public sector’s greatest asset and, therefore, can have a huge impact on efficiency and effective service delivery. “It is through people that changes are made to how the sector runs and the services that it offers in order to make it more efficient and effective,”he said.

“Of particular importance are people’s new ideas and innovations with regard to policies, processes and services– which can positively shape how the sector interacts with, and delivers to, the community.”


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