Articles

Public Sector Staff – for Sale

In Public sector, UK productivity on February 21, 2011 by Tim Aikens

The UK government believes that some 330,000 public sector staff will lose their jobs over the course of the next four years.  They also believe that the private sector will generate enough jobs to soak up this surplus over the same time period.  The burning question is will the private sector want these ex public sector staff and will the latter really want to work in the private sector?

A recent survey by Barclays and the Financial Times indicates that over half the companies polled would be reluctant to take on staff from the public sector.  The most popular view is that they will be ‘ill equipped’.  To some extent you can see the obvious in terms of technology and private sector skills like sales – perhaps, but is this  taking a broad brush view.  I suspect that there are some really good people in the public sector who will lose their jobs and it will be a loss to all if they are ignored simply because their experience is not private sector.

However, I also think that there is a bigger worry and one that may be hidden.  Companies may well be reluctant to take on ex public sector staff because they do not believe they will be either as motivated or productive.  In some cases that could be a reasonable concern.  But I think that this also represents a huge opportunity to bring more people to understand the importance of self motivation and doing the best you possibly can.

It’s hard to boil the ocean – it’s just too big.  Equally one drop of cold water will not cool down a whole bath of hot water – rather the drop is brought up to the temperature of the bath (almost).  If a company chooses its ex public sector staff well and introduces them in small numbers across the business, the chances are that the business will have a much bigger influence on the newcomer than the other way around.  The question is do you believe in McGregor’s Theory X- inherently lazy or Theory Y – people want to work and do a good job.  I’m a Theory Y person myself.  The environment and conditions around much of the public sector encourage the typical picture we have of their workforce.  There are a lot of big exceptions – military, police, fire service and front line NHS for a few.  My personal experience of these people in the private sector is that they make just as big a contribution as anyone else.  Now admittedly they volunteered to leave, but there will be a lot of pragmatic people out there both willing and able to take on all that the public sector asks of them.

Bringing these people into the private sector is important for them and the UK.  This is an opportunity to boost UK productivity not weaken it!

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