GO Interview – Ian Eker, Director of Public Services Scotland at Hays

Tuesday August 16th, 2011

In May 2011, a joint Hays/CBI report ‘Thinking Positive: the 21st century employment relationship’ called on the Government to ‘fundamentally rethink its approach to employment law’ in order to promote workplace flexibility and foster better employment relations.

Alongside the CBI, Hays explored how the employment relationship has changed, concluding that leaders should build on the success of workplace relations forged during the recession by embedding this flexible approach into the Government’s Employment Law Review.

GO spoke exclusively to Ian Eker, Director of Public Services (Scotland) at Hays, about the report, the developments currently taking place within public sector employment and what public sector procurement professionals can learn from their private counterparts.

How do you think the recent Hays/CBI report will impact on the area of employment law?

It’s difficult to say but I think it’s really important that leaders do take notice of the findings. Some really sluggish economic growth numbers have come out just this month, and anything that can be done needs to be done to support jobs creation. One of the key facets of the British economy in the last ten years has been flexible working practices. The feedback that we’re getting from a lot of our clients at the moment is that they’re nervous about recruiting permanent staff. They want people to work and want to expand, but they are not quite at the stage where they are confident they can take on people on a permanent basis.

What are your views on current employment trends within the public sector, and the procurement area in particular?

I spoke to some of my colleagues who deal specifically with public sector procurement and what we’ve seen over the past couple of years isn’t what we’re now seeing going forward. In the last two years we have seen very low staff turnover within the public sector, which might surprise some. If you look at the reasons for that, you’ll find a lot of staff within the public sector especially don’t have a viable alternative – people aren’t confident about moving on. So we’ve seen pretty low staff turnover, and we’ve seen headcount freezes. However, I think the myjobscotland portal has been an excellent initiative; it’s been the right product at the right time.

We recently conducted a survey which had a response from over 1000 people working in the public sector. Forty-five per cent of respondents said they were either expecting to be made redundant or to be out looking for work in the private sector. There was broad concern that with early retirement and voluntary redundancy programmes a lot of the best talent was being lost.

What skills are most in demand now and likely to be in the future within procurement?

Specifically within procurement, category management skills are in very strong demand – IT category management is also in demand. What we are seeing at the moment in Scotland, and this is being driven by banking and the financial services, is that public sector organisations are perhaps struggling to hang on to some key staff. We’ve seen local government people leave west central Scotland, for example, to join a couple of the banks in Edinburgh who are recruiting very heavily.

How do you believe the profile of procurement has changed in recent years?

I think there has been a massive increase in procurement’s profile since the McClelland Review. It’s still a work in progress but there’s certainly more awareness of the importance of procurement and what it can bring to an organisation, whether in the public or private sector. I think more public organisations are educating their staff on the importance of reduced exposure to risk. I also think that events such as Procurex and the GO Awards are important showcases for the profession.

What can public sector procurement professionals and buyers learn from the private sector, and vice versa?

The first thing I would say is that there has been a much greater blurring in the past couple of years of what we mean by ‘public sector procurement professional’. The mentality of ‘I’m either public or private sector’ has gone. We’ve seen it when there has been a recession; there’s also a lot of people who have shifted from private to public sector organisations. I think it’s important to say that both sectors can benefit from the other’s experiences. Digging down a little bit deeper though, I think top private sector organisations could learn from the processes and procedures that the public sector puts in place. The public sector could improve their caller engagement and also have more robust dialogue with prospective suppliers.


Ian has worked at Hays for over 15 years, initially as manager for Hays’ office in Glasgow. He launched the Hays Social Housing division before becoming business manager for the Construction and Property division, a post he held for 12 years.

In 2008, he became Hays’ Director of Public Services in Scotland, taking responsibility for the design, development and implementation of the strategy to increase exposure and business volumes in the public sector. This is delivered through 50 specialist recruiting experts across ten offices in Scotland, covering Accountancy & Finance, Senior Finance, Construction & Property, IT, Social Care, Social Housing, Purchasing & Supply Chain, Legal and Office Support.

Hays recruits qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide. It is the market leader in the UK and Australia and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe. It operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments.

For further information about Hays, visit www.hays.co.uk

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