Among the many challenges that state and local governments face, recruiting and retaining top talent remains at the forefront. This is particularly true in the high-demand field of cybersecurity, where there are more than 300,000 job openings at the state and local levels.
The primary reason why state governments face challenges implementing effective IT programs and hiring key talent: “the funding at most state levels is not commensurate to the risk,” Doug Robinson, Executive Director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), said during a Jan. 17 webinar.
So how are state and local governments dealing with the challenge of recruitment?
Many government IT departments turn to social media, especially Twitter, to emphasize the importance of their work to potential hires. For example, the state of Maine’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) posts job opening and professional development resources via Twitter, as does the Vermont Agency of Digital Services. The state of Colorado’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) is especially active on social media, often giving followers a behind-the-scenes view into the goings-on of the agency.
“We uniquely have mission-critical work,” Theresa Szczurek, Colorado’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), said in an interview with GovLoop. “We’ve attracted top-notch talent that used to work at these big-name states and agencies. They like our team and culture.”
The key is focusing on what makes the state unique. “The private sector can usually pay a lot more, the startups have a lot of the fun, so we really try to compete on a different area,” explained Brandi Simmons, Chief Communications Officer (CCO) and Public Information Officer (PIO) of Colorado’s OIT. “We have a different type of culture, where we are service-oriented and can impact some amazing things.”
Simmons emphasized the potential of social media as a channel of communicating stories of impact. Colorado’s OIT has a healthy Twitter following at 1,652 followers to date, so its impact can be far-reaching. This year, Simmons’s team is focusing on recruitment as the primary driver of the department’s social media presence. OIT will operate more strategically, from the point of trying to acquire talent.
Nationwide, cybersecurity remains an in-demand field that states have trouble recruiting for, despite the need for strong cybersecurity programs. “There are many more opportunities than there are candidates,” Robinson said. Additionally, according to Robinson, “states spend less than 2 percent of their IT budget on cybersecurity each year.” The field appears to get less monetary attention than it deserves on a statewide level.
Simmons’s team is going to focus on recruiting as well as retention. “Some of our employees can get great training from the state and acquire great skills, and then leave for the private sector,” Simmons said. Internally the team utilizes Google+ communities to share thought leadership information and new tech finds, as well as drive engagement. The department has also created a rewards and recognition program.
In terms of social media wins, Simmons pointed to the effect of influencers on extending a network. “Any time we can get the governor or former governor involved or have him retweet something, our analytics skyrocket,” she said.
For recruiting posts, Simmons likes to create something fun and eye-catching. “My direction to my digital media manager is to never just post a link to a job posting, but to have the post be a fun infographic or video, just something that cuts through the noise and catches peoples’ attention,” she said. Here are some examples from OIT and other state agencies on Twitter:
The Governor’s Office of Information Technology needs an inspiring leader to serve Colorado as IT Director in the Denver Metro area. If servant-leadership in an engaging, complex and fast-paced environment appeals to you, look no further! https://t.co/hzUhKeJX5P pic.twitter.com/qXNNIoORhM
— OIT Colorado (@OITColorado) September 24, 2018
A recruiting Twitter post from the state of Maine’s OIT reads:
We’re looking to add great people to the OIT team! Many positions available! Apply now at https://t.co/xB7UKS11za #mainejobs #maine #jobsinmaine #technology #government #govjobs #techjobs pic.twitter.com/WGNdAuNSPO
— State of Maine Office of Information Technology (@stateofmaineOIT) January 28, 2019
Vermont Digital Services highlights initiatives that are underway at the department:
In the past 6 months we consolidated several project management offices into one unified structure. This move enables us to effectively manage our resources and portfolio in a more strategic way, allowing for projects to have a better chance at success #betteroutcomes
— VT Digital Services (@VermontADS) July 31, 2018
As states increasingly utilize social media to connect with potential hires, they may want to also collaborate with the private sector and universities to create education programs, internships, or research opportunities according to Robinson. A previous GovLoop interview with Maine CIO Jim Smith pointed to collaborations that his department is moving ahead with, including the Cyber Security Lab, the Maine Cyber Security Apprenticeship Program, and partnerships with L.L.Bean and local hospitals.
“Effective cybersecurity is a team sport, and we need to collaborate across the board, certainly with other state agencies, other branches of government, but even more importantly with the private sector and higher education,” Robinson stated.