Winning the War for Talent: Part II-Some Solutions

By Lavigna, Bob | Government Finance Review, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Winning the War for Talent: Part II-Some Solutions


Lavigna, Bob, Government Finance Review


How well-equipped is your organization to meet the workforce challenges created by massive retirements and a shrinking pool of workers? In the February issue, Part I of this series focused on the dimensions of the war for talent and why government will feel the leading-edge effects of the retirement boom.

If Part I was the bad news, Part II offers good news--proven tactics, already in place, to compete effectively for talent. These include:

* Aggressive recruiting, including marketing public service as a unique opportunity to do important work.

* Timely hiring techniques, such as alternatives to written exams and even "on-the-spot" job offers.

* Using technology to make the hiring process faster and more user-friendly, both for candidates and hiring managers.

* Eliminating outdated laws and regulations like the "rule of three."

* Creating more compensation and benefits flexibility to attract, motivate, and retain talent.

* Developing the next generation of leaders.

* Using workforce planning to identify critical employee competencies and align HR systems around these competencies.

MARKETING PUBLIC SERVICE

Many public employers wistfully remember when government was an "employer of choice." An agency could post a job vacancy on a few bulletin boards and then wait for the flood of well-qualified applicants. In those days, the challenge wasn't to recruit applicants, it was to decide who among the many candidates was the best qualified.

Those days are gone, at least for now. Instead, government must compete in a lightning fast labor market where job seekers have the leverage and the boring or slow employer can't compete.

Bold and creative recruiting can enable government agencies to distinguish themselves as employers of choice. This takes planning, resources, and creativity. Some successful approaches include:

* Aggressive recruiting, often with full-time recruiters who can relate to today's new workers.

* Full-fledged marketing programs, using professional marketing firms, appealing logos and slogans, the Web, and even unconventional media such as ads on movie theatre screens.

* Attractive recruiting materials. Too often, government job ads and Web sites virtually scream out "government" by looking like legal announcements or position descriptions.

New approaches are particularly necessary for hard-to-recruit fields like accounting, where accounting school enrollments are down, in part because most states now require CPA candidates to take 30 hours beyond the standard bachelors' degree. This shortage requires recruiting creativity. For example, several organizations, including government agencies, now recruit students with finance degrees who have also taken accounting courses. Some organizations even recruit college sophomores to try to influence their career decisions.

Above all, government agencies need to market the unique rewards of a public service career--namely, the chance to work in an organization that makes a difference in people's lives. Not many private sector jobs can make that claim.

We also know that today's workers expect to have several careers. A single government organization, because of its size, complexity, and diversity, can provide the opportunity to change careers, while staying in that same organization. That's the message the recruit needs to hear in order to counteract the perception that government is boring, ineffective, and slow-paced. Moreover, to balance work and personal life, government agencies should encourage flexible work hours, compressed workweek, s, and even alternative arrangements such as telecommuting.

MAKING HIRING FASTER AND MORE USER-FRIENDLY

Of course, recruiting only works if the recruiting agency can actually hire candidates. That means finding ways to be more flexible and cut rigid "red tape"--laws, rules, and processes that can make government hiring an endurance contest. …

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