Some believe the work of HR is very different depending on whether it is in the public or private sector, but the work is more similar than it is dissimilar. At the end of the day, it is all about the employees. So let’s discuss some of the things the sectors share.
Whether public or private, HR leaders are being challenged to approach their role from a strategic perspective. Organizations need HR professionals to think strategically, to capture and utilize appropriate measures and metrics to inform decisions, and to formulate human capital plans based on real data and comprehensive forecasting models. It is not enough to run from fire to fire each day: we must understand the “business” of our organizations and align HR, and all of its functions and practices, with the organizational mission, vision, strategy, and goals.
Talent management is more than just recruiting and hiring. It is a critical business strategy, regardless of the sector or industry. Talent-management strategy determines how an organization hires, manages, develops, and retains talent. Effective talent management allows an organization to attract, cultivate, reward, engage, and keep top talent and match the right people to the right roles at all levels. The private sector has a long history of applying best practices in talent management to remain competitive. Public-sector HR can learn from private-sector successes and implement the practices that support innovation and lead to better outcomes. By leveraging technology to capture and analyze data, organizations are better able to identify developments in talent supply-and-demand trends and identify opportunities to enhance current resources for the future.
Trust, Transparency, and Employee Advocacy
Historically, transparency has been a major concern for public-sector agencies. Gaining and maintaining employee trust in the face of public scrutiny is now widely shared by both sectors. We’ve all heard the admonition, “Is this an action you want to see reported on the front page of the local paper?” In recent years, we have seen several top executives apologize for their companies’ betrayal of the public trust, often followed by a much-publicized resignation.
The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer (a global survey) found that less than 50 percent of those surveyed trust business or government to do what is right. This is a sharp decline in trust and is marked by results that show most respondents believe “A person like yourself” is now far more credible than a CEO or government official. This may be surprising for leaders in both sectors, and it has implications, both encouraging and challenging. This perception of peer credibility can be used to your organization’s advantage to support your strategic employment branding efforts.
In a nutshell, an employment brand is the perception the public has of what it’s like to work for your organization. It is your organization’s image in the eyes of not only your current employees, but prospective and former employees, as well. That perception is dependent upon how well we manage the employee/employer relationship. According to Weber Shandwick, a global PR firm, we can reach beyond employee engagement to employee activism. “Employee activists are different—they make their engagement visible, defend their employers from criticism, and act as active advocates, online and off.” Their recent survey showed that only 56 percent of responding employees have defended their employer. The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer showed a link between the behaviors of leaders and employee willingness to advocate for their employers. When employees trust their leaders, they are more likely to speak positively about the employer. As organizations provide strong leadership, effective internal communication, employee development opportunities, and corporate social responsibility, employees are able to take pride in their employers. We want our employees to be “brand ambassadors” for our organizations, whether public or private.
The opportunities for HR to have an organization-wide impact are significant in both sectors. For more information about creating a climate that goes beyond employee engagement to employee activism, see the report Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism, here.