The Ri5 interview: Miles Skelton


Jobsgopublic celebrates its 15th birthday in 2015, a notable achievement for a number of reasons. Not only has the public sector recruitment specialist achieved long-term success amid a host of competition and an evolving market, it has done so at a time when the sector itself has been subject to significant change and cutbacks.

We spoke to managing director Miles Skelton to find out how Jobsgopublic has maintained its successful approach in the face of these challenges, as well as hearing about its plans for the future.

Looking back, Skelton outlines the ‘massive changes’ in the sector since Jobsgopublic’s early days. “According to recent statistics,” he says, “staffing levels in the sector are at their lowest for around 40 years. Under the last government, staff numbers grew by about a million but after a tough time they’ve since plummeted.”

Against this shifting backdrop, Jobsgopublic has changed as a business, evolving from a job board into a digital resourcing company offering a range of advertising, software and marketing services.

Looking at these changes, Skelton is adamant that the business’ ability to offer affordable, disposable solutions to public sector employers – rather than expensive, long-term packages - has kept Jobsgopublic relevant and maintained its position as a supplier to the sector.

Helping the sector to innovate

When Jobsgopublic started out, recruitment in the public sector was bogged down by paper applications. Expensive, slow and offering a poor jobseeker experience, change was needed – and that’s where Jobsgopublic aimed to make a difference.

“We were probably the first to offer online application forms for the public sector and it went from there,” describes Skelton. “And, as our reputation grew, some of our more innovative clients were receptive to new ways of doing things – that’s when we started to provide things like microsites, applicant tracking systems and online executive search. We’ve been on a journey with some of these organisations and we’ve stayed together since those early days.”

Jobsgopublic’s positioning as an enabler of change, and the relationships it developed within the sector, engendered trust and loyalty among its clients, which remains a key part of its strategy. 

“Our business is based heavily on relationships –it’s really important to us,” says Skelton. “What we call the ‘JGP Experience’ is how we want to make sure every client and candidate has the best possible experience during the recruitment process.”

Coping with change

It’s impossible to discuss the public sector without considering the widespread reforms that have taken place within it – and which look set to continue. Skelton sees the sector as being in the middle of a change period - but he still sees opportunity within it.

“I don’t think there are any more shocks around the corner,” he says. “We know cuts have happened and they’re going to carry on and get deeper. But, good people will always need to be replaced if they move on and people are still moving around and into other jobs. So there’s still a process to maintain.”

In Skelton’s view, one key change has been the de-centralisation of budgets. As he describes: “Once upon a time there were big HR teams who were responsible for all recruitment. Now, there are smaller departmental budgets and managers who are tasked with recruitment – and some are more experienced and capable in this area than others. That’s where we help. The number of managed recruitment campaigns we’ve done has grown significantly and we picked up our first award at the PPMAs last year.”

Amid this period of change, Skelton is keen for Jobsgopublic to enable organisations to maintain what he calls an ‘always on’ approach when engaging with talent. Instead of simply reaching out to candidates when vacancies arise, it means public sector employers can maintain a dialogue with their talent pools, enabling them to dip into them when they have roles to fill.

“There’s a need for the sector to have better communication with the people it needs and become more proactive, and we’re seeing increased use of talent pools to facilitate that. This can help to tackle skills shortages and start to build relationships between candidates and recruiters, and make a massive contribution to their employer brand” he says.

This, he adds, is one of many ways in which the public sector is learning from the private sector, with organisations increasingly having to be commercially-minded and run like businesses. And of course, part of this involves bringing in talent from the private sector, which Jobsgopublic is helping to achieve.

Looking ahead

So, looking back it’s clear the business has achieved plenty in its 15-year existence. But what of the future?

Skelton suggests three big factors will dominate the sector in years to come: “Budgets will continue to be de-centralised so there’ll be a need for us to help large numbers of managers to meet their recruitment needs. Then there’s the importance of data, and the transparency it enables in the recruitment process, and finally I think there’ll be an increased focus on retention across the sector too, so EVPs will be a key aspect.”

And despite the growing suite of products and services Jobsgopublic offers, he stresses the job board will continue to be a key part of what the business offers, although in many cases it’s combined with other solutions.

Figures for the job board are strong, with a traffic up 30% and unique traffic up by 43%. Meanwhile, social engagement is also moving upwards, with Jobsgopublic’s Facebook ‘likes’ doubling in the past year alongside 20% growth in Twitter followers.

“We’ve also got something big in the pipeline,” says Skelton. “It’s still in development but what I can say is that it’s designed to improve the jobseeker experience and also make life easier for the hiring manager. It’s really innovative and it’ll enhance the experience of applying for jobs as well as supporting the recruiting manager through the process. So, watch this space for that one.”

While the sector might be facing challenging times, it’s clear that as a business Jobsgopublic is thriving. Skelton says: “I think that’s because of how we’ve been able to help those organisations through the hard times. We’ve supported them during incredibly challenging periods of change, and that’s helped to cement the relationships we’ve formed.

“This is probably the most talented team I’ve worked with,” he continues. “They’re really committed to making a difference. Over the years we’ve had to change what we offer and also the way we’ve done things, but our people have helped us to do that. We work best with the clients we’re allowed to get close to, and our team help us to build those relationships.”

“We exist to make the recruiter’s life easier and to give users the best possible experience. Once it was a real pain to apply for a public sector job. We want to continue to improve on that experience and make sure good, talented people aren’t dissuaded from entering the sector because of outmoded or clunky practices.

“It gives us a massive kick when a client tells us they’ve filled their vacancies – it’s great to know we’ve done a good job.”

Thursday, 26 February 2015

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The Ri5 interview: Miles Skelton