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​Addressing the Public Sector Skills Shortage: Attracting Retired Returners to the Workplace

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Recruitment is arguably in one of the most challenging landscapes it’s been for years and with restrictions in public sector, there is a need to explore how best to tackle candidate shortages and skills gaps to mitigate further impacts on an already under pressure and under resourced sector.
In this series, Opus' Delivery Manager, Michele Jackson, explores how we can begin to address the public sector skills shortage by tapping into key demographic groups, starting with attracting retired returners to the workplace.


The public sector faces a recognised challenge of skills shortage, particularly in areas with high demand for specialised skills but limited qualified candidates, such as social care, technology and planning.

Demographic factors such as an aging population and retirements are currently contributing to the skills gap, leading to ongoing recruitment and retention challenges, increased workloads, and decreased service quality.

Recruitment isn’t a one size fits all approach and there are multiple streams of attraction strategies, one of which is enabling retired individuals, who may wish to return to work, back into the workplace.

Whilst this is a topic that has made the news over the last few years (especially following the pandemic), is it really something that is being actively pursued? And if it is - is the understanding of the current impact of skills gaps and the value that retired returners can bring, really at the forefront for a credible solution? What more can we really do to utilise this hugely untapped and extremely valuable resource?

Recent research suggests up to 30% of people will reconsider their retirement plans because of the cost of living crisis, opening up potential for organisations to explore attraction and retention within this demographic.

Attracting retired returners can be a valuable strategy to explore, as they bring experience, stability, and problem-solving abilities to fill skill gaps.

Retired individuals possess invaluable knowledge, skills, and insights that can greatly benefit the public sector. Their experience aids in addressing complex challenges, making informed decisions, and improving organisational performance. With a deep understanding of the sector’s processes, policies, and systems, retirees streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and prevent the loss of critical information.

Their insights also contribute to the development of effective strategies and policies. Known for their work ethic, professionalism, and reliability, they positively impact workplace culture. Their stability and commitment foster a cohesive and productive environment. Combining their work ethic and experience with the capabilities of younger generations can bring significant advantages to an organisation.

While there are lots of potential solutions that we can explore as recruiters in partnership with public sector organisations to attract retired returners, they have to be right in order to attract this demographic.

Many retired returners may be interested in returning to work, but may not want to commit to a full-time schedule or may have other caregiving responsibilities. The public sector can attract these individuals by offering what are recognised for this demographic as flexible work arrangements, such as part-time schedules, job sharing, or remote work options.

Offering skills development and training opportunities, including on-the-job training, mentoring courses, and access to professional development resources may also be a valuable attraction method to support those who have perhaps had a longer gap between retirement and reemployment, to refresh any gaps in knowledge and skills.

Many retired individuals are eager to stay engaged, continue utilising their skills, and contribute to society. Offering them the chance to work in the public sector not only provides a sense of purpose but also promotes active aging and social inclusion.

In order to create a sustainable future for Public Sector talent, there has to be a rounded approach, ensuring that a selection of attraction methods are used in order to appeal to a broad range of candidates across a diverse range of demographics.

Attracting retired returners is one approach that can offer several advantages to public sector organisations. Their experience and institutional knowledge can bridge the skills gap left by the retirement of other experienced workers. They can provide guidance, mentorship, and transfer their expertise to younger employees, ensuring a smooth transition and preserving crucial institutional knowledge.

Retired returners are just one demographic the public sector should consider when it comes to rethinking public sector recruitment strategies and tapping into this generation should go hand in hand with a number of other methods to develop a resilient, diverse and inclusive workforce.

To find out more about how local government can attract retired returners to the workplace and the benefits of this, download our whitepaper.

About Michele

Michele has worked within the MSP arena for the last 15 years, with the majority of her time within public sector. Michele has also managed teams of onboarding/engagement partners in both Public and Private Sector and now as Delivery Manager, oversees our recruitment teams within the Managed Service Provision at Opus.