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Posts from the ‘Government Jobs’ Category

Where is the Government workforce headed?

Recently, the Center for State & Local Government Excellence (SLGE) released it’s report on State & Local Government workforce trends in 2017.  The data is particularly compelling because they have benchmarked data from years past to compare it to.  In some cases, the data tells us something we most likely suspected; like a continued upward trajectory in hiring.  But the statistics still paint a picture of where we are headed in the coming years.

The strong need to prepare for the future is glaringly obvious as you read through the findings.  Fifty-five percent of retirement-eligible employees are either continuing as planned or accelerating their retirement dates.  The numbers reflect the pressure that is on to put succession plans into high-gear.  It’s easy to imagine what 55% of knowledge walking out the door, without any contingency strategy, would do to an organization.

Governing writer, Patrick Ibarra, talks about this growing need in his article, Why Governments Need to Ramp Up Succession Planning.  He writes, “Effective succession planning in government is an ongoing, dynamic process, not a static, one-time objective.”  As entities plan for the future, succession planning should not be considered a “trend”, but rather a change in the way of doing business.  This need to transfer knowledge in an effort to mitigate disruption in service will continue long after the term ‘succession planning’ has lost it’s place on the “hot topics” list.




Student Loan Payment – Another employee benefit

Student loan debt is growing at an alarming rate.  US student loan debt in the US in 2017 is at $1.3 trillion.  That’s Trillion with a “T”.  It’s no wonder that employees feel underwhelmed on payday when a good chunk of their pay is going to their student loans.  I recently read an article on the City of Memphis and their effort to help employees deal with this very real issue.

Memphis put a new program in place for employees who have been with the city for at least one year to contribute $50/m to an employees student loan account.  For the lucky ones who never had student loan debt, subsidizing $600 a year may not seem like a lot, but it actually can bring the length of the loan down by quite a bit.  This is a fantastic way to attract employees and potentially keep them.

Though I haven’t heard any stories about those in Memphis taking advantage of this benefit, there are some stories from the private sector that highlight just how powerful this can be to any retention strategy.  A 23 year old working at PricewaterhouseCoopers spoke about how grateful she is to this benefit to help her knock down the $57,000 she has in student loans.  “When someone helps you, it makes you feel appreciated.”

We might be a long way to seeing this widely adopted across more of the public sector, but as it grows in the private sector it will be something to contend with.  While only about 4% of companies offered some form of student loan assistance in 2016, that could increase five-fold to 20% by 2018, according to a survey of 320 companies by Willis Towers Watson.  Unconventional benefits are becoming the new norm.

Tales of Innovation in Government Finance

Just got back from Denver where I attended the 111th Annual GFOA Conference.  Wow, we’ve come a long way in 111 years!  What I love most about attending this event are the stories of innovation that inspire and motivate other communities to want to do more for their citizens.  As I mapped out my agenda of sessions that I wanted to attend, topics like transparency, ROI, engagement strategy, and ERP looked promising.

Naturally, I was looking for some sessions that focused on the workforce and I found it in a session called “How to Measure a High Performing Finance Office”.  This session was so crowded that I had to sit on the floor for the whole hour and a half.  But it was worth it.  Great speakers, interesting perspectives, and very informative.  Brendan Hanlon, CFO at the City & County of Denver kicked things off by addressing data and how it impacts performance management.  He advises to not just look at the data, but look for ways to improve performance.

Denver uses a Business Intelligence (BI) tool to help create dashboards to report and measure using data from different departments.  For example, he showed a chart depicting paychecks issued through direct deposit and those issued with an actual check.  The goal is defined; Get more people using direct deposit.  They use the data they had to measure the progress made over the past couple of years.

The next speaker, Judith Marte, CFO at Miami-Dade County Schools, came in talking about sustainability (and not the “green” kind).  No, this is the sustainability that goes hand-in-hand with succession planning.  Very early in her presentation, she said “I want to have a staff who can function without me.”  That statement can take anyone aback when they first hear it, but what she meant was she should not be the only one who can do her job.  She must have successors who could easily step in should she leave or retire.  She goes on to give advice about looking for “non-traditional” candidates and taking the inexperienced and training them.

To wrap up the session was the City of Madison Finance Director, David Schmiedicke.  David approached the topic of performance by speaking to cross training your employees to address areas with the greatest need and pair up with mentors as needed. He also made an interesting point about turn-over being an opportunity.  That it brings in new people who might have different skill sets and be willing to more freely embrace web-based solutions.

Overall, the theme of measuring and developing your workforce rang loud and clear.  The speakers set a good example of how to engage your employees by providing opportunities to enhance skill sets, grow personally and professionally, and feedback to understand the value they bring to the community.  Your employees are your single greatest asset and these leaders know how to treat them right.



A History Lesson in Public Pensions

Whether you love them or hate them, pensions have given employers a way to put money aside for their employees’ retirement for ages.  With so much media attention on the negative consequences of public pensions, it’s important to be educated on the history of pensions to keep an open mind about the pros and cons.  Pension reform is happening across the country, but how did we get to this point in the first place?

There is evidence that the earliest retirement plans can be found in the public sector, dating as far back as the early Roman Empire. Fast forward to the 18th century in the United States of America.  The Army and Navy began their pension plans as disability and severance pay, but by the 1800’s these turned into more formal retirement plans with Congress approved criteria. The Civil War had a major impact on military pensions with the imminent need of officers, soldiers, and other personnel to support the battles.

By the 1900’s states and local government began adopting defined benefit plans to offer to its employees.  What began primarily with just public school teachers, police, and fire quickly spread into state government.  Federal Government came into the picture with the Civil Service Retirement Act of 1920 after the end of World War I.  And the private sector was also getting into the mix at this time. Companies like General Electric, Goodyear Tire, and Eastman Kodak were offering pensions to their workforce.

As we reached the end of the twentieth century, the funding of pensions began creating a major drain on public budgets and resources.  Though in theory, these plans were supposed to be pre-funded to avoid any pay-out issues, it just wasn’t feasible.  Our government, in the early 1900’s, did not predict the mass exodus of baby boomers, people actually living longer, and the volatility of the market/economy.

States and localities are taking serious measures to reform pensions, but many employees are still grandfathered into very lucrative pensions so we won’t begin seeing the real benefits of reform for some time.  Employers are responsible to incorporate visibility measures into overtime, and other accepted compensation that increases pension pay-outs, to ensure there isn’t misconduct on the part of the employee.  Too much overtime is not only costly, but can result in fatigue issues which poses its own set of problems in itself.

The landscape of pensions has certainly changed since the inception of our country.  Pensions provided employers with a way to recruit and retain workers and for a while that made sense.  But longevity at one organization is becoming scarce as employees want to move up the career ladder and realize moving to another organization is the only way to accomplish that.  This is an opportunity for public sector to rethink benefits and look for ways to make good use of the limited time an employee will be there as pensions are no longer a lure.


A Shout-Out to our Public Servants

Public Service Recognition Week is upon us again.  The time of year to reflect on all the big (and little) ways government employees have supported our community.   There are so many people out there trying to make a difference.  Every meaningful act impacts our daily lives sometimes without even realizing it.  I am fortunate to live in a great community.  Just 40 minutes northwest of Boston.

On a typical day in my neighborhood I might see the van to pick up my elderly neighbor and bring him to the Senior Center.  Without that service he’d be stuck in the house with little interaction to the outside world.  As I drive by the park, I might see the Dept of Public Works out maintaining the soccer fields or assessing land for a new sidewalk.  Without this service, the safety of our children are at stake.  Speaking of children, I have two in the public school system.  They care for my children’s individual needs and challenge them in a way I could never do by myself.  Without them, our future wouldn’t look as bright.

This weekend our town will have it’s annual Apple Blossom Parade.  I feel a sense of pride when I attend this every year.  It brings the whole community together and, honestly, without the assistance of our town’s great employees I can’t imagine it being a success.  The children’s faces light up when the police cars and fire trucks roll down the street blaring their sirens.  They crack up when they see what silly theme the library staff will dress up as this year (last year it was Minions).  They chase after candy thrown into the crowd by town officials.   And they dance to the sounds of the high school marching band.

Take a moment to reflect on the endless ways those who serve the public make our lives a little better.  It starts as soon as you walk out the door.


Public Service: Is it still a career choice?

As younger generations contemplate what their career paths will look like, public service still remains an area of interest for many college students.  But what does a career path for someone just entering the job market look like?  Author Gayle Cinquegrani wrote an article recently for Bloomberg BNA describing the new modern worker.  This persona values happiness and career development when considering their job or career choice.

The article, Workers are More Willing to Change Jobs, points out that millennials in particular who don’t find what those values they are looking for, are willing to leave to in pursuit of what really motivates them.  So how do public employers embrace this new way of thinking?  What can they do to continue to encourage careers in public service while adapting to a changing culture?

The answer requires each agency to look at their current retention strategies and will likely be different for everyone.  According to the paper, Understanding Millennials in Government, written by Peter Viechnicki of Deloitte Services, LP, governments should consider some strategies not geared towards generations, but rather lifetime milestones such as buying a car or starting a family.  There are also particular benefits that may attract younger employees like student loan repayment assistance programs.

In reality, committing to a lifelong career in public service is probably not what employees fresh out of college are prepared to do.  Viechnicki goes on to say “governments may wish to develop different recruiting and career progression strategies, which allow them [Millennials with specific skill sets] to perform public service for shorter but still meaningful stints.”  In other words, it’s better to have them for some time rather than not at all. This is where having a succession strategy or knowledge transfer plan would come into play.

Workforce Planning for Today… And the Future

If you are out perusing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) site you might come across some useful information around Workforce Planning.  But when you Google “Government Workforce Planning” this is where you’ll get your best results.  Right off the bat you see links pop up for WA, MA, and CA.  So, naturally I was curious and decided to check out their sites.

My first stop was the State of Washington.  Under the State Human Resources tab there is a whole section on Workforce Planning.  Their Workforce Planning Model is broken down into four component; Issues, Goals, Objectives, & Strategies.  The goal is to hone in on the strategies that are really going to impact improving performance.  With an action plan in place, supervisors can get involved by doing some Operational Workforce Planning of their own.

Next stop, State of Massachusetts.  You can find their Workforce Planning section under HR Policies.  They have a different model from WA by which they include the action plan, but it follows a similar four-step path.  They begin with analyzing the current workforce, then identifying future workforce needs, establishing the gap between the present and future, and finally implementing solutions to address the gaps between the present and future workforce needs.  Efforts to secure institutional knowledge and develop the skills of existing employees is a top priority for the state.

Last stop is across the country to the State of California.  California keeps their Workforce Planning in a section called State Supervisors/Managers under the Dept of Human Resources site. They consider their Workforce Planning Model a phased approach:

  • Phase 1: Set the strategic direction for the Workforce Plan
  • Phase 2: Gather and analyze departmental data for the Workforce Plan
  • Phase 3: Develop the workforce strategy and plan
  • Phase 4: Implement Strategies
  • Phase 5: Evaluate the Workforce Plan

As the future remains uncertain, California is focused on matching the right people to the right jobs.  Forecasting plays an important role in their strategy so they are better prepared for what lies ahead.

Though California has a larger employee size, the problem is the same as WA, MA, and other states across the nation.  This is just a sample of the strategies put in place by states to aid in succession planning and retention efforts.  Each plan is unique to it’s state, but not so unique that others can’t glean some good ideas from each other.