How to Attract Senior Talent from Public to the Private Sectors

How to Attract Senior Talent from Public to the Private Sectors

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When an employer’s brand perception needs to be altered, perspectives can only be influenced when you first understand the issues through the eyes of the talent that you wish to attract.

When that talent has “seen a lot,” this influencing piece becomes even more critical.

Much has been discussed about the challenges of the local private sector in recruiting local talent, but this problem is especially acute at senior levels.

One of the core reasons may be that this senior talent has only “seen” the benefits of working in their comfortable public sector role. In order to influence them towards considering a private sector career, it is not enough to shout from the rooftops about progression opportunities, international exposure or benefits packages. To win their hearts and minds, you have to first understand what they like (and maybe dislike) about their current roles.

To move an opinion from A to B, you have to have an accurate understanding of their current motivations and experiences. In my opinion, many multinationals in the region do not take into account the “starting point” of many of their public-private sector hires, and this may well be a reason for the relatively high failure rate.

For an expat leader of a multinational company, it might seem strange to suggest this, but if they are to succeed in attracting (senior) public sector talent, they have to understand the aspects of the public sector role that were attractive for any given individual and then see if they could be replicated in the new private sector environment.

In many cases this is more than possible, and it is only pervasive stereotypes that are stopping these conversations taking place.

To give a simple example, not every public body works in the same way. Some are highly entrepreneurial, while others are restrictively burocratic. Some require independently-minded commercial animals with an international outlook, while others might be narrow in their approach.

Although there are certain commonalities, if you take a peek under the surface, public sector roles (and the type of people that work in them) can vary greatly. If a private sector employer understands more about the nature of the public sector role of a given individual, they are able to tap into why that individual has thrived and see how they can translate that into their environment.

To use a well-worn analogy, a round hole in the public sector can often find a mirror in the private sector world. The private sector recruiter simply needs to understand the nature of the types of people that they want to find and the sorts of public sector organisations that might contain these people.

It is like a matchmaking service in reverse. To find people for a certain environment, you have to first consider the environment that made them successful in the first place.

I sometimes think that not enough thought goes into the recruitment practices of multinational companies in the region. They shout loudly about what makes them so great, but in not suitably considering the potential origins of local talent, they are missing out on the opportunity to be more targeted in their messaging.

Our “why” in life partly comes from where we have been, so if private companies want to tap into the “whys” of high-potential local talent, it is critical to consider viewing the motivations through the prism of their individual public sector realities.