October 4, 2012 at 7:32 pm #170355
Everyone knows that people don’t want to work for agencies and organizations that don’t have a good culture, hence why OPM comes out with it’s best places to work rankings every year, but I’m not talking about agency I’m talking about location.
That’s right location, location, location… it matters. As someone who used to work in Jackson, MS I know a thing or two about wanting to leave my job strictly because of where it was located. The deep south may be perfect for some but definitely not me. I know as a follow my career path over the years I’ll be avoiding Mississippi and that general region.
So why is that a problem? Well maybe it’s not but for government agencies it could be. The government is a nation-wide business that has to staff offices all over the country and lets face it some of those offices are easier to lure talented people to than others. I’m not trying to say some areas are “better” than others as that’s truly in the eye of the beholder but most hiring managers can tell you locations matter, especially in an industry like government where pay and benefits are less flexible.
If pay increases and extra perks are off the table how does a hiring manager attract talent to remote or “less desirable” locations?
Let’s hear your suggestions and tips below? Has this been a problem or is it all in my head?
October 4, 2012 at 8:08 pm #170384
I don’t think it’s all in your head, and I don’t think it is necessarily a slight against the good folk, and local charms, that can be found just about anywhere.
There can be two scenarios that mitigate against relocation.
1) Public sector jobs are often concentrated in hubs, and not all agencies are necessarily located in every single district. Younger people, in the “hot zone” of their careers, will be looking for locales where the opportunities for upward mobility are greater. So, a place may be a wonderful area to live and work, and “big enough” as metropolitan areas go, but if your plans have their sights on finding another better job…or two…and there aren’t many such jobs in that region, you may not be in such a hurry to move there. In effect, you wouldn’t be relocating for the job offered, but rather for other jobs after that one.
2) At the other end of the age spectrum, if you have a home, and a spouse who likes their current job and compensation/benefits package, and your kids like their school and their friends, it would take an awful lot to make you want to dislodge from there. I’m not saying nothing would ever do it, but it’s gonna take more than somebody bumping your salary up a couple of thousand.
Interesting tidbit….in the late 90’s I read a Presidential Commission report on the under-representation of Hispanic-Americans in the public service. Somewhere on page 8 or so was a figure that leapt off the page at me and stuck with me since. The report authors noted that, at that time, at least, some 85 or 87% of Hispanic Americans were living in those states where only 34% of the federal jobs were situated. Whatever the reasons were for people living where they did, clearly it posed challenges to equity/diversity strategies.
Bottom line: You can dangle jobs in front of people, but ultimately you can’t make them live where they feel they don’t want to live, or uproot from where they DO want to live. We too often forget that work is mapped onto a life, already in progress.
October 4, 2012 at 10:53 pm #170382
With the advent of telework/remote work, location is less important. Unless your job is location-specific (e.g. park ranger, border patrol officer, etc.), you have much more flexibility to work from any location. State and local government employees don’t have this flexibility.
October 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm #170380
I’m a big believer that government could optimize if they thought strategic about where the jobs need to be.
Specifically, while DC can be a good place to live when you are young, lots of folks have trouble living there as gets older with high costs of living. Unfortunately, most of the higher grade jobs are in DC. I think it would be good to have centers of excellence outside the beltway like how USDA has a lot of their IT in Kansas City and NGA has a huge office in St Louis and CDC is HQ in Atlanta.
October 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm #170378
+1…with knowledge work, even state and local should be able to work from anywhere.
October 8, 2012 at 9:33 pm #170375
I think you’ll find this article very interesting. I’m not sure why other agencies are not promoting this.
October 10, 2012 at 12:17 am #170373
I would add that the federal government and geographically large state governments would be well suited to encourage rotation through field offices when employees are in the early stages of their careers. There are lots of opportunities to learn the finer nuances of public policy as well as develop useful network relationships with local governments when you are outside of DC or a state capitol. Some of my most useful contacts and allies are from early in my career when I worked on projects in the field that required collaboration across federal, state, and local jurisdictions.
October 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm #170371
With the United States Coast Guard’s impending move to St. Elizabeths (SW DC) next summer LOCATION (and how we are going to get there) is at the center of 99% of people’s conversations. We have folks that may leave due to the move, folks that may “wait and see” and others that will most likely just grin and bare it (I’m in the last category!). The USCG is doing its best to help the workforce with the move, but like any change issues this is a difficult nut to crack. I believe that an increased use of telework will help in the long run, but creating a culture that understands the benefits of telework does not happen over night. We need to learn from others (like CBP who apparently has ~75% of their workforce teleworking!) and get our leadership on board in order to keep our talented workforce in place when the big move happens. Hopefully we can do it right and be a model for the other DHS agencies when they join us. 🙂
October 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm #170369
Samuel F DoucetteParticipant
If I were the hiring manager in a less-than-garden-spot location, I would try to attract talent by emphasizing that people who come to that location will still gain valuable experience to broaden their knowledge and experience base. I would tell them that it’s understandable even OK for them to come to Location X, gain that experience, and then move on to other opportunities/locations if that’s what they want to do. In life, nothing is wasted.
I have worked for the Air Force for 15 yrs, and the AF tries to develop civilian leaders in the same way they develop military leaders. If you want to advance, you have to gain that breadth and depth of experience across organizational levels (field, intermediate HQ, and Pentagon). This may mean you have to take a job in a less than sexy location — I won’t name any of them, but my AF colleagues can probably guess. The military don’t have any choice, but we civilians do. What we do with those choices determines our career path.
If we get BRAC’d in the future and our workload transfers from a losing to a gaining base, we have the choice to go with that workload or take our chances with other federal or non-federal jobs in the local economy. Personally, I think that any place where I can work hard, support my family, and contribute to the local community is a good place.
October 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm #170367
My employer will only cover the costs of travel from your designated headquarters office to where ever. It deals with the perpetual urban sprawl that occurs in Texas (lots of people live outside of the city and commute into the field offices, etc.). But we don’t currently actively engage in telework. We still very much subscribe to the concept that good ideas occur spontaneously by people bumping into each other and having a conversation about something. That’s hard to do with telework.
October 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm #170365
I knew that this would be an issue with the USCG move. However, the move is enticing for some employees since you will have onsite parking for carpoolers, an onsite fitness center, daycare center, cafeteria, and a brand new building that is outfitted for wireless connections. For those who don’t want to commute every day, I recommend that they ramp up their telework now (like DISA did before their move to Fort Meade). Since everyone works in an office/cubicle, telework should work, except for those who work in the Operations Center.
Luckily, you have a union that can act as an advocate on your behalf, plus you have progressive leadership. Good luck!
October 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm #170363
…unless you have a social network, chat function or similar online tool. 🙂
October 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm #170361
But there’s still something to be said about that unexpected run in with a colleague and bouncing ideas off each other and sketching that idea out on the back of a napkin on the fly. There’s just some magic that happens there that social networking has yet to recreate for me.
October 11, 2012 at 5:21 pm #170359
Elizabeth Fischer LaurieParticipant
This is a great point. Although for those of us who start in a field office, it seems to be difficult to then move to DC or a capitol. I am having a hard time convincing people that I am sincere about moving, even though I would find a way to go tomorrow if I could.
Regardless, being in the field has taught me about how policy is truly implemented and the challenges faced by those who are in the trenches, so to speak. It would be useful for more people to have this type of experience.
October 15, 2012 at 7:01 pm #170357
Some areas of USDA have begun using remote program specialist positions. The budget doesn’t allow agencies to cover moving expenses as they used to do and for many there’s no real motivation to move to Washington, DC. With the remote positions, the employee becomes part of the headquarters staff, often receiving grade increases in doing so, while staying where ever they are or want to be. The jury is still out as to how well these remote positions are going to work in the long run; still, it’s the way of the future, to be sure.
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