What can public sector organisations learn from private sector studies into employer brand – and how can they turn this to their advantage?

Employer brand is something we often associate with larger, private sector organisations with big corporate brand teams and even bigger budgets. 

However, a lot can be learnt from independent research into brand perception and what potential applicants actually look for in a good employer. 

The Randstad Award is the world's largest independent employer branding survey, surveying 200,000 people to establish what employees look for when they take the decision to leave their current organisation or trust and join a new one. In the UK, over 9,000 people were surveyed, of which over 1,000 constitute public sector employees. 

What workers want: can the public sector compete in these areas?

1. Long-term job security was voted the second most important factor when choosing an employer, after salary/benefits. 

So you're probably not going to win the remuneration race, but with benefits in the public sector 14% higher on average than the private sector, make more of the extra holiday and good pension schemes still on offer. You might want to consider issuing all staff and potential applicants at offer stage with a total reward and remuneration statement, which doesn't just give a monetary value to the basic salary available but also adds up the financial worth of every other benefit. This can make for a considerably more attractive financial offer.

Don't forget that although salary is the number one most attractive factor, job security is still a highly ranked in second place – and this is something (despite recent cutbacks) that the public sector is still seen to lead the way with, over private organisations. 

2. We asked what "soft values" people looked for in employers. In the UK, the most important factors were honesty (23%), security (17%) and reliability (13%). 

Think about how your organisation embodies these factors and then actively promote them. 

Perhaps an internal survey amongst your own staff ranked these attributes as values your organisation possesses in abundance? If so promote these statistics through your "work for us" activity. And if you don‟t run such a survey perhaps you could! Ask your staff to vote on these key employer characteristics. 

3. The Randstad Award revealed a significant increase in the number of people ranking good training (up from 25% to 31%) and career progression opportunities (up from 33% to 36%) as top "employer attractiveness" factors. 

Create noise about your commitment to developing staff. List out the number of courses available and the number of training hours your employees enjoy. Create case studies of people who have progressed throughout your organisation so that your internal mobility truly comes to life. 

4. The importance of work-life balance; candidates were concerned by too many extra hours (42%), quality of working environment (37%), and pressure from employer to finish job (32%). 

Although public sector organisations (and those who work within them) are still under pressure to deliver, capitalise on the perception of the public sector as being more conducive to work/life balance than the private sector. Again use case studies to promote the working environment and bring to life the benefits of working within your organisation. 

These four simple steps will help ensure you reach a wider talent pool and capture the candidates you need.