Magazine article Government Finance Review

The Next Government Workforce

Magazine article Government Finance Review

The Next Government Workforce

Article excerpt

Historically, government at all levels has relied on decent pay, generous benefits, and stable employment to attract workers. As a result of the economic downturn, each of these attractions has been significantly diminished, leaving public leaders scrambling.

Other factors are at work, from the political pressure to be leaner and more efficient to the expansion of interest in work-life balance programs to the explosion of social media. The sum of all these moving parts is that for government to build its 21st-century workforce, old models must be discarded in favor of "next practices" - contemporary, progressive, and practical strategies and tools to attract, retain, and optimize talent.

Here are four approaches government leaders should embrace or expand to translate the headwinds of disruptive change into a tailwind:

1. Composition of the Workforce. As the economy continues to slowly improve - and with it, government revenue - there's a belief among some public managers that elected officials will be receptive to adding new government jobs to the payroll. This is a fantasy. Of course, elected officials must be committed to meeting constituent expectations, but the political reality is that it won't be accomplished anytime soon by growing the public workforce. The question, then, is how those community needs will be met.

One method is through the provision of a "contingent workforce." Savvy leaders get that what they need is to challenge the conventional notion that government always needs an FTE - a full-time equivalent - to provide a service. Do you really need an FTE? Instead, how about sharing employees between government jurisdictions? How about your agency employing that planner three days a week and another jurisdiction using him or her for two days? Yes, you'll have to figure out arrangements about benefits, workers' comp and the like, but it can be done.

Another option is consolidating services with another jurisdiction. Procurement, information technology, and human resources services are likely candidates in this area. Consolidating emergency dispatching services among jurisdictions is one of the fastest growing national trends.

2. Recruitment and Selection. First off, this should not be just a human resources department function. Successful government leaders realize this and bring organizational horsepower to bear so that a shared and unified vision among all executives, managers, and supervisors guides the development of their workforce.

It's time to recognize that you're competing for talent. The best people today aren't simply looking for a job. They want meaning and impact, and government is all about having an impact on the quality of life for citizens. This should give the public sector an edge over the private sector. However, the traditional methods of building the government workforce - post an advertisement, administer an exam, create a hiring list, make an offer - aren't the best ways to recruit that kind of talent.

While you may have a hiring freeze in place and think recruitment of employees is something off in the distance, take this opportunity to refresh your repertoire of recruitment and selection practices. Redesign your agency's website so it features more curb appeal and includes a web-based application process. Feature testimonials from current employees about what a wonderful organization yours is and how the work is challenging. Modify promotion practices to factor in performance as much as seniority, because it's a myth that seniority translates to competence, just as it is a myth that technical proficiency translates to supervisory effectiveness. …

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