Before the world was engulfed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional workplace was accepted as the norm. But ever since the virus reared its head and global economies went into meltdown, everything about our lives has changed.  

Whilst the pandemic has resulted in job losses for many industries, including the public sector where services were impacted, there are some public sector organisations that were required to recruit a significant volume of roles.  This was for COVID-19 related activities, as well as to ensure continuity of critical services to communities across Australia. 

But despite the rise in employment in some areas, public sector organisations have been faced with some unique challenges and trends when it comes to recruitment, and these are likely to continue well into 2021 and beyond.

recruitment trends in the public sector

digital meeting

find a suitable candidate

submit a vacancy
A man smiling with his teeth showing
A man smiling with his teeth showing

Recruiting today looks radically different from just over a year ago. There has been a significant shift not only in workforce practices and norms, how employees interact and engage with each other.

If the past year has taught us anything about the way we work, it’s that all organisations, whether in the public sector or not, need to adopt a different way of recruiting candidates, with specific support from virtual recruitment technologies.

The best recruiters, therefore, have taken the opportunity to add new skills, adapt as required and demonstrate their value to the organisation.

Here are five key recruitment trends and challenges:

virtual recruitment

In the same way that a hybrid workforce of onsite and remote employees has become the new normal, a recruitment process that combines both virtual and in-person steps and processes will become increasingly standard in the future, both in the public sector and elsewhere.

This is due to the associated cost and time savings, improved technology and acceptance of virtual meetings. Statistics collected during 2020, demonstrated there was no loss of productivity from employees working remotely.

borderless employment 

From flexible and remote working to virtual meetings, many public sector organisations have quickly caught onto the notion that they no longer have to recruit from their local talent pool, but that instead, the new opportunities posed by the current environment allow borderless recruitment of talent.  

internal mobility

Internal mobility is on the rise as organisations choose to recruit talent from within the current pool of employees, rather than going through the process of onboarding new external talent.  This not only supports knowledge retention but also the alignment of values and culture.   


focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I)

A recent McKinsey report showed that diverse employees, for example, women and youth, have been significantly disadvantaged in the last 12+ months.  Challenges include finding employment and balancing work and home and life.

A focus on inclusion is a priority across all three tiers of government, and we can expect to see a focus on initiatives and programs that add tangible meaningful value. 


recruiting temporary workers

Despite encouraging data about the increase in jobs in the sector, there has been an increasing trend for most new employees to be hired on temporary contracts. This is because many of the new workers were brought on board to either manage surge workload or to support ‘business as usual activities whilst others were allocated to pandemic project activities.  

The challenge of balancing long-term workforce planning, with surge and capacity planning, is an ongoing challenge.

Man and woman talking in an office
Man and woman talking in an office

how borderless talent can positively impact the workforce

While many of the current recruitment trends in the public sector have a positive impact on the workforce as a whole, there is no question that borderless talent and recruitment has impacted the way the sector has been able to expand and strengthen their workforces.

Whichever way you look at it, we are in a new era of true talent management. With the traditional inflexible archaic workplace models replaced by a new hybrid workplace, where remote and flexible working is not only the norm but expected, many departments and agencies have the benefit of no longer needing to hire talent who live nearby. 

This opens the recruitment process up to a much broader and diverse range of talent, while also enabling departments and agencies to broaden their experience to other localities. Essentially, the new trend for borderless talent has put the sector in an unprecedented position where they are able to “cherry-pick” the best talent and leadership from anywhere. 

Virtual technology means interviews and ongoing internal and external communication is possible from any location.  Borderless recruitment makes sense for both candidates and employers.  Where private organisations are able to truly access ‘borderless’ talent from a global perspective, the public sector is restrained with state-based legislation and will therefore likely benefit from metropolitan and regional broader talent conversations. 

Recent case studies from regional Victoria, have surfaced the benefits and challenges of borderless talent, where people from towns such as Albury / Wodonga, have accepted work opportunities for metropolitan-based organisations, working entirely remotely.

These individuals would have once either declined or travelled significant commutes to take advantage of city salaries and opportunities.  The flip side challenge is where local organisations find themselves talent short, as their once ‘local’ talent community is already employed, meaning they are now looking to attract new talent to the community.  

is remote working here to stay?

Woman working from home with her family in the background
Woman working from home with her family in the background

The inspired trend for remote and flexible working has been a strong benefit for public sector organisations during times of uncertainty. But the question is, is remote working here to stay? Will workers ever need to return to the office?

It’s clear that the traditional workplace is a thing of the past which means that business leaders now need to consider how they can evolve their workplace to be fit for the future.

Ultimately, it’s unlikely that the workforce will be unlikely to return to the office 100% of the time, at least not in the same way that it was before.

The way we communicate with each other, the way public sector organisations operate, the new technology onboarded and the way the workplace even looks has all changed.

Research has shown that there are a number of benefits for individuals, teams and organisations when employees are enabled to work flexibly or remotely.

Employees who have opportunities to work flexibly have been shown to have greater job satisfaction and this increases both their productivity and their sense of loyalty to the organisation.

And the benefit is not just for workers - organisations reap the reward too.

Flexible working arrangements help garner improved output from workers, allows costs to be lowered, entice workers to stay longer with the organisation and even act as a drawcard for new talent.

After all, in the current job market, flexibility has become an attractive feature of organisations and has been marked as a key influence in candidates’ job choices. 

But remote working doesn’t work for all employees and all employers. Some crave a workplace environment and thrive in an office environment.

What we’re likely to see is the continuation of the trend for a new hybrid style of workplace where a mixture of onsite and remote employees will become the new normal.

a systemic shift

It’s clear that the dynamics of recruitment, the workplace and the workforce have shifted.

Remote working, flexible hours, reliance on technology and borderless talent have become increasingly common practices in modern-day workplaces.

Public sector organisations are in a fortunate position where they can take advantage of the new borderless world and select the best talent and leadership from anywhere in the world.

discover our solutions

To find out how we can support you and your public sector organisation navigate current recruitment trends contact us now.