Serving citizens of the future: How to empower the modern workforce
With each new generation comes a new set of expectations for workplace technology, culture dynamics, and career pathing. And as the job market becomes increasingly competitive, state and local governments are finding it more difficult than ever to find, hire, and motivate diverse, multigenerational talent.
A recent study from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) titled, “Workforce of the Future: Strategies to Manage Change,” explores industry hiring trends and the resulting innovations that are needed to help employers fill the job gap and embrace changing workforce demographics. The good news? We’re seeing state and local governments across the country make strides to empower employees through diverse cultures, modernize operations with a compatible user experience, and apply creativity to build a robust talent pipeline for these roles.
From first contact to onboarding, advancement, and onward, there are small but mighty actions that governments can take to enable a long-lasting and fulfilling career for employees across the broad generational map.
Implement hiring practices that bridge generational divides.
Research from SLGE suggests that government organizations should think outside the box when developing recruiting techniques. The way employers engage with today’s talent pool must shift to align with job seekers’ current priorities and ambitions.
According to the SLGE research, nearly half of state and local governments point to social media as a successful recruitment practice to meet Millennial and Gen Z potential hires where they are — making it more than twice as effective as job fairs and internships or apprenticeships.
Elizabeth Kellar, a senior fellow for SLGE and co-researcher on the study, chalks this up to shifting expectations. “Younger workers learn about job opportunities online and expect a quick response to their applications. Local and state governments are competing with the private sector for talent and recognize they need to be more efficient in the recruitment process,” Kellar says. “Technology plays an important role in modernizing that process: It can streamline communications and help the organization better connect with a more diverse pool of candidates. It can also save time for managers involved in the hiring process.”
Invest in technology that bolsters — rather than baffles — the workforce.
Despite that fact that layoffs and discharges at state and local jurisdictions decreased between 2006 and 2016, the SLGE research found that the number of government employees choosing to leave their jobs increased by about 10 percent — indicating that organizations can be doing more to create a fulfilling experience for their workforce.
One of the culprits of disengagement and attrition could be workplace technology. A recent survey by The Workforce Institute at Kronos shows that legacy technology hits employees in state and local government hardest compared to other industries: More than half (55 percent) of employees feel that outdated processes and technology make their job more difficult. And across all industries, younger employees in general are in search of easy-to-use apps, with about 40 percent of Millennial and Gen Z employees citing poor workplace technology as a detractor for job satisfaction.
By adopting consumer-grade workforce management applications that offer a seamless interface and mimic the same ease of use as everyday applications, governments across the country can be better prepared to retain and engage younger talent.
Consider culture as a strategic differentiator when competing for talent.
Even long after onboarding, state and local governments should continue to cultivate a culture where all employees — especially this younger generation — feel motivated, engaged, and passionate about the work they do. Why? The SLGE research shows an industry-wide decline in employee engagement: Less than one-third of state and local government employees (28 percent and 31 percent, respectively) have reported feeling engaged at work.
Take employee feedback, for example: By deploying regular surveys and holding informal check-ins, employers in state and local government can quickly and easily gauge levels of employee engagement and determine immediate actions to improve their workplace culture based on staff feedback.
When identifying areas of opportunity, consider aligning culture goals with aspirations for the workforce. In one instance, the SLGE research found that the City of Minneapolis had created employee resource groups with a focus on attracting and retaining women, African Americans, and military members, which aligned with their diversity goal to attract a diverse workforce that mirrors the demographics of today’s younger generation.
We know that engagement is critical for building an inspired workforce, and today’s younger generations highly value organizations who are committed to fostering transparency and trust. By investing in young talent as they do their constituents, state and local governments can cultivate an unrivaled employee experience that bolsters long-term stability and continued prosperity within the community.
Jennifer Dowd is senior manager of the public sector practice group at Kronos, a workforce management software and services company.