Changing the Way Government Hires and Retains

It’s time for a change in the way government hires, engages and retains talent.

Traditional playbooks for successful organizational management are no longer effective and open principles are the way forward for transformation. With this in mind, there is an opportunity today to move beyond the current talent challenges of the public sector.

When talking about retaining talent, Michael Conlin, Chief Data Officer at the Defense Department (DoD), said, “In my opinion, [talent] is absolutely the biggest single challenge.”

Conlin went on to list several barriers to attracting top talent, including a lack of career paths and private-sector salaries. There are also outdated hiring processes, perception issues and more.

Additionally, within the public sector, the IT workforce grew significantly from 2007 to 2017, expanding from approximately 65,000 to more than 84,000 IT employees. And an ever-increasing number of government IT professionals are reaching retirement — meaning it is more necessary than ever to hire new generations of IT talent.

While these challenges seem daunting, there is a path forward to attract the next generation.

First and foremost, the value of solving problems over performing routine tasks, for example, creates meaningful and engaging work. This ability can be far more alluring to young talent than a compensation package.

Additionally, to attract young, engaged talent, the public sector must be cognizant of the environments they create. Going back to knowing your culture — specifically, your principles and ways of doing things — can help you shape the right environment.

Today’s modern, intergenerational workforce expects transparency, communication and the ability to directly affect change to be top priorities in the workplace.

Using modern organizational management, open principles and leadership, there is a path forward. Here are six quick ways for the public sector to begin to attract top talent:

  • Create “tours of duty” for short-term project sprints
  • Connect people to your agency’s mission, your ‘why’ and the problems to be solved
  • Use the experienced talent you have in abundance to mentor talent and allow for cross-collaboration efforts in your teams when career paths are yet undefined to keep talent interested
  • Be open in your hiring practices — look for diverse backgrounds to boost team performance
  • Use hiring incentives to open them up to new ideas never considered before and increase cognitive diversity

Every agency has a distinct mission. Having a clear, simple directive, whether recruiting new talent or retaining and engaging your current employees, will help each individual and team align to a greater purpose. Make sure your team knows how they align with your agency’s mission.

This article is part of GovLoop’s recent course created in partnership with Red Hat, “How to Transform Your Agency’s Workforce.” Access the full course here.

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