A few weeks ago the government nearly shut down as the result of a "downsizing" fight that clearly isn't over. But whether you think government's too big or not, we must realize that governments -- like other institutions -- are only as good as the people we get to join them.
Historically, government has attracted the best and brightest because of the issues it addresses, like public safety, poverty and the environment. These issues are much more important than whether the 27th brand of minty toothpaste can be made profitable. True, governments haven't always offered great top-end salaries, but they've attracted talent by offering great problems to solve along with a combination of stable employment, and good benefit and retirement packages.
They did until this year, that is. It's now clear that government salaries, stable employment and strong benefit/retirement packages are under serious attack. As private spending rebounds, governments are finding it harder to compete for skilled workers. Some government technology workers, for example, are accepting 30 percent pay increases and moving to the private sector.
Is it time to rethink recruitment and take advantage of social networking?
The basic recruitment problem is getting the right skills applied to the right work. The nature of that work is changing, even in government. We're moving from success that depended mostly on routines to a greater reliance on innovation. As a result, we need government with flexibility and agility rather than rigid efficiency. We need an innovative military to respond to terrorism as well as conventional threats; and an innovative health care system to prevent as well as manage chronic disease. In the aggregate, we need government to "steer" competitive service providers rather than "row" a gargantuan public monopoly.
In short, tough times and growing needs for innovation require us to use social networking tools for recruitment for the following reasons:
For those governments that ARE turning to social networking for recruitment, the progress is promising. Based on the early lessons, what should we do? You can start with three simple guidelines:
When my career was getting started, talented people wanted to work in government more than the private sector, and admission to the Harvard Kennedy School was more competitive than admission to the Harvard Business School. Now, after years of disdaining government, people with talent are again saying they want to work for the government -- on public problems. Granted, they often prefer the entrepreneurialism of start-up NGOs, but the focus is again on education, health care, human rights, energy and climate change, and the big problems that desperately need talent and creativity.
Can government recruit successfully in this environment? Though it will not be easy, the fundamental answer is yes, because we'll do a much better job with a little social networking help from our friends.
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to