Most people come to work in the public sector because they get a great satisfaction out of serving the public and contributing to society, as opposed to lining the corporate pocket. The general view though is that this commitment to contributing something back to society has to be at a cost, in terms of salary and benefits.
But this just isn’t true. Research by the Hay Group has shown that salaries are competitive at the lower end of the pay scale, local government is increasingly more competitive at managerial levels and it’s only at the top end of senior management levels that [the public sector] starts to fall behind. While we might not be able to provide the ‘gimmicky’ benefits packages that the private sector can offer such as cars, holidays or other luxury goods, we do provide a core benefits package that seems to exceed anything that the private sector can match. There is evidence from various sources that people who work in the public sector choose to stay, not only for the rewarding work, but because the benefits packages are so valuable – final salary pension schemes are the norm, flexible working is well established, salary sacrifice schemes are widely used and benefits choice tends to be wide. So how does the public sector manage to remain so competitive and create increasingly comprehensive benefits packages for their staff on a shoestring budget?
At Buckinghamshire, we have put in place a robust total reward strategy linked directly to our business objectives. Reward is seen as a strategic business tool for engaging staff with the values and performance objectives of the organisation. While affordability is always high on our agenda, we find innovative ways of developing more capacity to enhance and develop our reward architecture. More than 50% of staff do not have access to our company intranet, which presents challenges in terms of communications but we have still increased take up of some of our key flexible benefits by more than 100% in the past six months. We have ensured benefits are tailored to different segments of our workforce so that we are offering something of value. We manage benefits admin largely in-house which gives us significant tax and national insurance savings that we commit to reinvesting in new perks for staff.
- Gillian Hibberd is corporate director organisational development and HR at Buckinghamshire County Council