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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.

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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.

The Year of Retention

Retention seems to be a popular word this year.  HR leaders across all levels of government are in a state of worry.  Attract and retain…  Attract and retain…  This is the mantra by which public sector employers are living and breathing.  So what’s all the fuss about?

As more employees are reaching retirement age, they know a plethora of knowledge will be walking out the door with each employee.  So governments are deep in succession planning and strategizing to address this.  But it’s also made many acutely aware that they need to figure out ways to retain this new generation of employees who are filling in these gaps.  With pensions in the condition they are and pay often lower than the private sector, what’s the draw to make them want to stay?

Regardless of the generation, people still believe in making a difference.  Whether it’s for their community or to make a difference in peoples lives, public service tends to draw people in.  But it doesn’t necessarily make them want to stay.  Employees want to be recognized for a job well done and offered opportunities to advance their careers.  They want to be part of decision making and know their voice is being heard.

According to an article written by Neil Reichenburg of IPMA-HR, Getting the Right People, employee engagement matters. “Engaged employees are five times more likely to be very satisfied, five times more likely to recommend their place of employment to others, and four times less likely to leave.

Engagement is not a one-size fits all; we are all individuals.  What motivates one person, might not motivate the next.  As managers and leaders address the reality of what retention means to their organization, they will discover there are multiple paths to create an environment employees can thrive in. And maybe, the employees who came into the public sector for the right reasons will want to stay a little while longer.

 

One in one hundred million – Fire & Rescue

At Kronos we’ve kicked off a cool new video series called “1 in One Hundred Million“.  It’s a tribute to the millions of workers who go out there every day and make our lives better whether we realize it or not.  I believe it’s appropriate that the series kicks-off honoring the story of a firefighter who has a passion for the public he serves.  Enjoy!