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Embracing a Strategic Approach to the Competition for Talent

Whether governments are leveraging technology to streamline services or engaging their employees in meaningful ways, state and local leaders are embracing a strategic approach to attract and retain the talent they need.

As workforce demographics shift, local and state governments are updating their hiring practices and benefits to appeal to a more diverse pool of applicants. Just as human resources leaders are adapting practices from the private sector, they also are emphasizing the advantages of a government career.

Research conducted by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) finds that governments are using social media, online videos, and infographics to draw attention to job opportunities as well as to the message that public service careers make a difference to society.

Governments increasingly understand the importance of promoting their brand, a well-established practice in the private sector. For example, the City and County of Denver works with an advertising agency and posts videos of employees doing their jobs to get the attention of younger candidates. Photographs are included on billboards, posters, and light rail cars with the message, “Be a part of the city you love.”

Monthly online chats with a recruiter are offered by the City of San Antonio. Individuals can post their questions and get answers on the spot. The City also features a job of the week on Facebook and LinkedIn.

San Antonio also has made changes to its benefits package to appeal to a changing workforce. The city provides all employees with six weeks of parental leave starting on the hire date.

Retaining employees requires just as much attention as recruiting them. For that reason, governments put considerable great effort into employee engagement as well as to career development, mentoring, and learning opportunities.

After employees identified paid time off (PTO) as a high priority in the city’s biannual employee engagement survey, San Antonio allocated an additional 24 hours of paid leave which can be used for such activities as enrolling in school, participating in a child’s school activities, or engaging in responsible pet ownership.

Another way governments are approaching the competitive job market is to build their own pipeline of talent. Policing positions, for example, have become more difficult to fill over the last 10 years.

To address this challenge, the City of Minneapolis established an 18-month Community Service Officer pathway program for individuals interested in a public safety career. One goal of this program is to increase the number of women and people of color who go into policing.

In a fast-paced world, governments have identified the need to streamline their recruitment processes. And when local and state government managers look for process improvements, they recognize that it is more about change management than the technology itself.

HR managers in Montgomery County, Maryland, met with hiring managers to identify the time-consuming elements in the recruitment process and which steps could be automated. Using an on-line candidate qualification tool, Montgomery County has been able to generate an eligibility list more quickly and has reduced the time it took to process, print, copy, and distribute applications and resumes.

There is an additional benefit. By spending more time upfront with the hiring manager, HR has more information about the knowledge and skills that are needed and can better screen applicants.

Whether governments are leveraging technology to streamline services or engaging their employees in meaningful ways, state and local leaders are embracing a strategic approach to attract and retain the talent they need.

To learn more about SLGE’s workforce research, please visit:

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