Workforce churn will continue for some time, say sector experts

By Martin Ford | 18 August 2021

Recruitment experts have warned the COVID-19 pandemic could mean workforce churn in the sector persists for some time to come.

The retirement plans of numerous council chief executives and other senior managers put on hold due to the crisis have been put into action in recent months.

Speaking to The MJ this week, local government consultant Karen Grave said: ‘After these big events you tend to see a lot of turnover.

‘It’s been an absolutely exhausting time. People are really tired, everybody has been at full tilt making sure citizens are OK.’

Director at interim management and executive search firm Tile Hill, Anthony Lewis said the ‘Herculean’ efforts of staff during the pandemic had combined with the impact of a decade of austerity.

He continued: ‘I think we will see people leave the sector. There’s a sizeable community of people not far off saying “I’ve done my time, I can’t galvanise myself to continue”.’

Ms Grave warned lingering uncertainty over the potential for further COVID-19 disruption and warnings from some quarters of a ‘difficult’ autumn will extend the impact into 2022, adding: ‘Next year we are going to see a lot more churn in the workforce.’

Beyond the impact of the pandemic, Ms Grave and Mr Lewis revealed potential candidates for senior roles had become more cautious, requiring reassurance over financial and political backing when taking on roles to turn around failing services, for example.

Mr Lewis said the sector should be looking to recruit from a more diverse field and shed preconceptions about candidates’ backgrounds and work history.

He said: ‘There is a core of aspirational individuals. It’s giving them headroom to take on more responsibility.

‘The sector is full of brilliant people – they are committed, talented, intelligent individuals. They are not thinking about themselves or their careers and need a tap on the shoulder.’

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