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Working for the government is a good gig. So why is it difficult to recruit top talent?

October 20, 2017

Mission focus, services provided and constituents served are diverse across governments. However, workforce issues – whether recruitment, retention, improving effectiveness and accountability – are a top priority across the industry. No easy feat, agencies are finding themselves navigating a multitude of challenges along the way. Several factors pose obstacles from a hiring perspective including employer brand perception, compensation constraints, traditional government benefit structure, inflexible work schedules, and competition with the private sector for top talent.

As government organizations look to hire, determining whether they are conveying an appealing employer brand is an important factor to consider. As noted in a special podcast featured in Talent Economy, Does Government Have an Employer Brand Problem, “In many cases, working for the government is a good gig. So why do government agencies and institutions struggle to convey an attractive employer brand as their counterparts in the private sector do?” Wayne Bobby, Vice President, Infor Federal provides insight, noting the tremendous training ground and career path the government offers. However, agencies need to do a better job conveying that opportunity and making the prospective employee experience more seamless.

As budgets are still struggling, compensation and benefits continue to lag the market. Also, benefit structures have not changed to meet desires of the millennial workforce, who do not value the time-honored benefit plans such as inflexible retirement accounts and healthcare plans perceived as paying for services you don’t want or need. As private sector often offers better pay and more flexibility in benefits, this a hurdle for government organizations to overcome in attracting and recruiting top talent. Government organizations must show their value beyond pay and benefits.

Millennials desire a non-customary work schedule and environment. The 8 to 5 workday is not appealing, nor is sitting at a desk and cubicle for the 8-hour workday. Flexibility in jobs, schedules, and where the work gets done are increasingly key factors.

Finally, competition with the private sector for top talent is a challenge. Why is it such as challenge? Certainly, the classic argument of better pay and benefits in the private sector, but branding is a strong factor in the competition. The perception that it is better to work for the private sector. In addition, the private sector has better-recruiting strategies in place with persistent recruiters, and a more targeted recruiting practice through various avenues including social media.

Have faith. Behind big challenges lie hidden opportunities. Innovative hiring and recruiting practices can help agencies overcome these constraints. As organizations look to recruit millennials, their hiring and recruiting practices need to be addressed. The application process is the first view by millennials into the processes of government organizations. Use of social media and improved websites can go a long way in attracting candidates. With talent science and powerful HCM solutions, organizations can send a strong message as being innovative and modern. And with the powerful data and analytics tools offered by science-based talent solutions, applicants are placed into the best job fit, versus the long-established method of skill-based placement, ultimately leading to greater retention. Talent science succession planning tools enable individuals to grow in their careers thus providing alternative retention strategies that go beyond traditional compensation and benefits.

To help organizations in improving recruitment and retention, they should look to reinvent their approach to include employing powerful and innovative recruitment tools such as talent science. Not only will it show that the organization is modern, but agencies will be able to develop and retain the right employees for the right jobs. Once hired, the tool can be used as a retention strategy to provide engagement with the employee and help them progress in their careers within the government organization.

Heather Sherlock, Director, Infor Public Sector

  • Federal Government
  • State and Local Government
  • Talent Management
  • Talent Science
  • North America
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