As boomers head for the exits, government administrators need to expand their recruiting via social media
Baby boomer retirements are accelerating. The Pew Research Center estimates that in the third quarter of 2020, about 28.6 million baby boomers retired from the workforce; this is 3.2 million more boomers than retired in the same quarter of 2019. The job losses associated with the COVID-19 recession and seasonal changes in employment activity may be contributing to the jump in boomer retirements, say Pew Research Center analysts.
Governments need to step up their recruiting efforts to replace those experienced workers, says Mark F. Weinberg, president of the Careers In Government (CIG) governing board. CIG works to match qualified individuals with opportunities in government and throughout the public sector. Additionally, CIG is a forum for the exchange of news and information of interest to more than 20 million Americans working, or seeking employment, in public sector occupations.
“Since the last of the boomers will not reach retirement age until 2030 (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), local and state government will have to increase their recruitment efforts to fill vacated procurement positions for the balance of this decade,” Weinberg tells Co-op Solutions. He says these efforts should start with sufficiently funded recruitment budgets and must include a strong social media presence and the use of public-sector niche job boards. “Traditional strategies such as professional networking through associations and conferences, college recruiting, and conducting job fairs and open houses need to continue. Other recruitment tactics such as employee referral and new-hire signing bonuses and forming and utilizing agency-hiring cooperatives should also be actively explored.”
Weinberg believes competition for public procurement talent will be strong in the years ahead. “The success of any comprehensive recruitment strategy must be accompanied by community and agency branding and marketing to maximize employer appeal. Likewise, job classification and salary studies should be up-to-date and reflect current market conditions relative to both the public and (to a lesser extent) the private sector.” He adds that public agencies should strengthen their organization’s fiscal health, leadership, management and working conditions. The reason: prospective job candidates are increasingly scrutinizing these characteristics before they turn in an application or accept a job offer.
Weinberg says the tactics and strategies for recruiting Black, Indigenous, people of color, women and other under-represented groups to work for a public agency are much the same as for the larger general population. He adds, however, that there are some crucial distinctions that must be focused on within the organization and its processes. He says there are several steps to ensure success in building a diverse workforce. These include:
- Establishing and nurturing a culture that values the contributions of these groups
- Working to understand their unique hiring and workplace challenges and career objectives
- Striving to ensure recruitment materials, applicant screening processes, interview questions and requirements are bias-free
- Ensuring that there is diversity among interview panelists and hiring decision-makers.
Weinberg believes that a public agency’s efforts to increase workforce diversity should rely heavily on ensuring access and targeting women, minorities and other under-represented groups. “Developing recruitment materials and campaigns with messages that resonate with these groups is critical. Such messages should include that members of these groups are sought, valued, appreciated and provided with promising opportunities to succeed and advance in a bias-free workplace.”
He notes that in the past, targeted recruiting initiatives were often aimed at campuses, publications, professional organizations and conferences and job fairs with a sizeable number of readers, members and attendees from different clubs and organizations.
Times and technology have changed however, Weinberg tells Co-op Solutions. “Today, more sophisticated, targeted and even personalized recruitment is possible using technology. Specifically, social media combined with data mining and individual outreach to a broad spectrum of prospects in the job market is now possible and has proven effective.”
Weinberg points to numerous studies that show new professionals today often use social media for job searching in the U.S. He says sites such as careersingovernment.com offer the capability to deliver highly qualified applicants with local-state government experience and skill sets. “CIG has partnerships or affiliations with many other sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Importantly for facilitating local-state government diversity goals, CIG offers a ‘diversity boost’ option which identifies and distributes job postings to dozens of targeted social media and websites.”
He spotlights the following as good places for public agencies to recruit new professionals: Other local-state government agencies, university and college placement offices, community job fairs, professional associations and conferences, military re-entry job counseling programs and workforce investment boards.
Weinberg believes the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how municipal services, equipment and supplies have been prioritized and provided. “Many staffs working remotely from home have confronted new challenges with respect to communications, some processes, inventory control and distribution. Procurement of products and services related to each community’s efforts to combat COVID-19 has taken on an uncharacteristic sense of importance and urgency.”
He believes one of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis is that it has created a unique set of circumstances that have uncovered areas of response and service that must be strengthened and improved. “In procurement, these areas likely include emergency funding and authorization, expediting processes, and logistical handling and distribution.”
Weinberg believes public purchasing professionals may increase their reliance on cooperative agreements in the years ahead. “Our experience suggests that cooperative procurement contracts are becoming more prevalent in local-state government circles but have a great deal of room to increase and expand. Indeed, their appeal is in their efficiency of effort which should provide relief to overworked staff, as well as the potential to lower product and service costs and add a measure of standardization where it would be beneficial.”
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact: [email protected]