John Bersentes

As a recruitment communications professional that has been working with many agencies for the better part of a decade I am both hesitant to comment but compelled to do so based on some of the comments in this thread and my comments are my own and not that of my agency which is very focused in supporting many of the agencies mentioned here. In regards to the value of social media for talent acquisition and the need to address Veteran outreach the facts support the need and the market conditions warrant that hiring reform is indeed a work in progress. But I would like to add something for your consideration.

The Psychographics and Media Habits of a New Audience

Both a new generation of veterans and the general public have a changing perception of what it means to be an American. The unquestioning patriotism of the “Greatest Generation” is giving way to an emphasis on “social fairness” in a world of increasing digital connectedness. In other words, “It’s the right thing to do.” More and more, the dividing line in American society lies across media haves and have-nots. Consider that at your own agency VA and the myriad of non-profit organizations have been providing tablets and computers for veterans. Meanwhile, Cellphones for Soldiers (http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/), founded by two Massachusetts tweens in 2004, has provided 192 million minutes of free talk time. All of these programs have a common denominator: to connect the veteran to the pulse of American life requires the right technological equipment.

The Psyhcographics and Media Habits of the Traditional Audience

Appealing to a new audience while retaining an old (and larger) audience is a tricky proposition. Veterans, in particular those who are ill or injured, are held in great esteem by most Americans, and a significant percentage are more than willing to support an organizations they can trust to “keep its promises” to veterans. Digital revolution aside, this audience is still best reached through traditional mediums like television and radio. But there is a reason why Wounded Warrior Project, and groups like IAVA invest so heavily in these areas, and often in my opinion at the risk of vesting too much into marketing and not enough into the actual delivery of services – but social media offers a more level playing field in giving a voice to the disenfranchised, the general public, and cash strapped agencies that need more than ever an alternative to broadcasting with direct feedback loops, insight into the morale of the workforce or even in a more personal and authentic way what it means to be dedicated to making a difference. Human resources in the public sector requires being both a doctor and lawyer these days, the discussions here are evidence of that but to put your head in the sand and say” it is what it is” well I am sorry Julie that is just not good enough anymore and an attitude that the American public is quite frankly fed up with pardon the pub. I for one am not going to accept that premise and if change and innovation do not become the tipping point I would assert that agencies cannot afford to ignore digital connections from emerging media any longer.

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” In the Washingtonian article recently published“Ask Not”: The Shift in Public Service Since JFK’s Famous Appeal By Hannah Seligson

An interesting statistic caught my eye that gives me pause but is not surprising “only 8 percent of the Federal workforce are millennial, compared with 25 percent of the private sector’s workers. Given that fact that the digital landscape has changed, as well as candidate behavior, so to the need to “fish where the fish are”. The spirit of the discussion thread here or at least the take away for me is that agencies need to do more with less and begin to consider how best to align operational goals and priorities related to talent acquisition, workforce planning, and career development with new tools that are readily available and are more cost efficient and effective period.

I would add however that one part of the discussion I haven’t heard much about is that if we are talking about Veterans preference, diversity outreach or the Pathways Program one thing is clear and that is that Employer brand management is one area that ties much of these threads together and serves as one of the few ways that most agencies even have the chance to tell their organizational story. If done right – in a relevant way that express the ‘total package” of benefits derived from public service beyond just a paycheck. The discussion thread here not only illuminates the need to continue hiring reform efforts but that human resource professionals and your respective agency leadership need to consider what it is you want to say and the employer brand and ability to differentiate your organizational culture and workforce attributes within your outreach and message. An important ways that an agency can seek to align the corporate mission through the development of an employer brand is to portray accurately the benefits or brand attributes it aspires to but that it also can and does deliver. To articulate this while aligning messaging and outreach to your Employee value proposition ((EVP) e.g. the combination of self expressive, economic, functional, and psychological value that you as an employee share with the mission of your agency) is an important first step. In doing so I think we can help more lesser known agencies to attract the best and brightest millennial talent whose notion of public service and mission align to the aspirations of leadership in a way that not only the American public will find important and worth funding, but that candidates and public service as individuals can relate to the work that they dedicate themselves to day in and day out back to that mission.

Perhaps we are defined by what we do and I would say to those in the public HR community take pride in knowing that you are making a difference – to your agency and to those that seek to gainful employment and desire to join your ranks and opt-in to answer the call for public service. That is why social media is so important to talent acquisition and in the public sector more so now than ever– it is more than just one of the arrows you need to have in your quiver- it is frankly an opportunity that should be taken advantage of. In that social media gives the agency the opportunity to express that unique employee value proposition, so too can our Federal workforce feel connected to that mission and ultimately serve as brand ambassadors to help attract like-minded new recruits and create a can-do spirit that we saw in my fathers’ generation when civil rights leaders and our executive branch inspired a whole generation.

Program managers that oversee outreach and recruitment want to reach a broad base of the American public of which search engine marketing, mobile, social technologies are the enablers that we have seen to do this and at the lowest cost per hire. Coming at a time when just a third of Americans have a favorable opinion of the federal government, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll, the lowest rating in the 15 years Pew has tracked it. Satisfaction and commitment among federal employees have also sunk to their lowest since 2003, says a report by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service—to 60.8 on a 100-point scale. That’s 3.2 points below 2011’s measure, the largest drop ever. (Private-sector employee satisfaction remained constant last year, at 70.) If agencies don’t define who they are in the social space, then others will do it for you and I for one have grown weary of the tea-bag toting naysayers that can’t accept the status quo but offer no real solutions to address the challenges that we as a nation are facing.

So to those in talent management keep fighting the good fight as change no matter how painful is still the only constant and one that warrants our focus into begging the question “why not”.