Recruitment and retention remain high-priority initiatives for state and local government
Unemployment rates are hovering around all-time lows and job growth has been far from stagnant. The economy is doing well and most Americans are gainfully employed. That sounds great, unless of course you’re a local government trying to recruit talented employees while facing budgetary constraints.
Recruiting has never been easy for state and local governments, and it’s daunting to think how many vacancies will exist as much of the aging workforce retires over the next three, five, or 10 years. In an economy where job-seekers can afford to be highly selective – and many are looking for flexible hours, more control over their time, and a tech-friendly work culture – the struggle to find the right people to fill a wealth of soon-to-be vacant positions is greater than ever.
Bottom line: HR leaders in government across the country are citing recruitment and retention as a top focus for their municipalities and departments. To fill full-time, part-time, and even seasonal vacancies, governments will need to get creative to meet the evolving expectations of candidates – in particular, Gen Z and Millennials. The challenge will be to modernize the workplace and change prospective employees’ perceptions about work in the public sector, all with a very limited budget.
So, what can be done to recruit and retain talent in the public sector?
Modernizing the workplace is key to survival.
When competing for top talent – and fighting to hold on to current employees in a strong economy– workplace culture and employee experience both factor heavily. Today’s workforce demands modern and mobile technologies at work – so don’t miss out on talent due to slow processes. Plus, consider what can be done to create a better work-life balance for employees.
Start today: Consider introducing flexible schedules. For example, this could mean breaking away from the conventional 9-to-5 workday schedule and allowing employees to work 8-to-4, or possibly 10-hour shifts four days a week. Or you might allow employees to work from home once in a while – research shows this might actually increase engagement.
Recruit by raising the profile of the industry.
To succeed in recruiting new and diverse talent, we need to break the misperception that government jobs are boring. Millennials are about to pass Baby Boomers as the largest living population and they don’t want a job that, to them, feels meaningless. Millennials hold organizations to a high standard when it comes to delivering a positive impact on society, so it’s important to get the message out that state and local governments are a great choice for people who want to make a difference. Capitalizing on this brand and underscoring the integrity of the industry will be a significant differentiator when competing with private-sector employers for talent.
Start today: Create job descriptions that not only reflect what the job is, but more importantly how the candidate would add value. Then use social media and creative videos to promote job openings, extend the reach of your message, and help current and future candidates feel connected to the community.
Retain knowledge, even as retirements drain the workforce.
The candidate pool is changing, and Millennials and Generation Z will play a very important role in filling future positions. As the current government workforce ages (in the last 30 years, the average age of a federal worker has crept up from 30 to 42) and nears retirement, it’s essential that government agencies maintain vital skills before decades of knowledge walk out the door.
Start today: Implement mentoring programs and internships to help with succession planning.
Ultimately, workplace culture and employee experience will be what attract new candidates and keep current employees from leaving. There are hundreds of control levers that employers can pull that can make a real impact on an employee’s experience throughout their career. Some don’t even cost a dime! The key is understanding what matters most to the modern workforce.
Jennifer Dowd is senior manager of the public sector practice group at Kronos Incorporated, a provider of workforce management and HCM cloud software solutions.