Attracting and retaining a skilled workforce long term has been a challenge for a number of public sector organizations. Sometimes seen as having too much bureaucracy and lower-than-average salary offerings, many have been turned away from government work. Further complicating the matter, many agencies have not upgraded their recruitment strategies or systems in years. Job descriptions often lack precision, and the hiring process often requires multiple steps that can be difficult to navigate for first-time applicants and may be discouraging other interested applicants from applying. All in all, according to a recent survey of over 70 public sector leaders in 18 states across the U.S., roughly two-thirds find it difficult to hire and keep talent.
Because many of these weaknesses are often the result of budget limitations, it's easy to assume that there isn't much organizations can do to boost hiring and retention. But on the contrary, there are key ways that organizations in the public sector can differentiate themselves and appeal to applicants.
The public sector may not be able to afford providing the perks that a Fortune 500 company or a well-funded startup can offer, for example, but it does provide employees with a solid work-life balance, opportunity for growth and the chance to make a significant difference in their community by achieving the organization's mission. According to the "State of Human Capital Management in Government" report, published by HCMG, WBR Insights and Cornerstone OnDemand, roughly 86% of government organizations offer work/life programs to ensure their workers are happy at home and at work, 85% offer one-on-one coaching to promote on-the-job growth, 80% offer employee recognition programs, 77% offer mentorship programs and 74% even offer tech training. These programs and initiatives can go a long way in attracting and retaining talent—it's just a matter of unifying them via a culture of development, and conveying an organization's commitment to that culture.
Defining a Culture of Learning
An effective talent development culture requires more than just a handful of learning courses—rather, it calls for prioritizing lifelong learning, building growth opportunities into every role and empowering employees to take charge of their own careers. Government agencies can take the first step toward improving recruiting and retention by tailoring their learning programs to specific employee preferences, since everyone learns a little bit differently. Creating a culture of continuous learning will not only result in more effective development programs, but it will also help the public sector stand out as it aims to attract skilled workers.
"We're in competition with the private sector for talent," said Dr. Trish Holliday, Assistant Commissioner and Chief Learning Officer at the Tennessee State Government's Department of Human Resources. "So, we need to create a culture where people feel heard."
Holliday has experienced hiring challenges firsthand. Over the past several years, she has played a vital role in revamping the state of Tennessee's work culture. "Our governor wanted to invest in the workforce," Holliday said. "We asked ourselves, 'How can we help people be their best and invest in a career in government?' And the answer was by creating a talent development culture."
However, this transition didn't happen overnight. It took over five years for the state to build and implement a talent and development culture. The transition began when the HR department identified several crucial talent management practices and established a rewards system to recognize stand-out employees and help them develop plans for career progression. Then, HR introduced an integrated talent management system, which allowed state leadership to share resources and align on strategy across departments.
Understanding that employees are at different stages in their career, and many of them have different learning styles, the state now offers a plethora of learning methods, including microlearning, on-the-job experiences, mentorship, and coaching. By offering a diverse range of learning options, organizations give employees the opportunity to learn on their own terms. And an increasing number of organizations are benefitting from these offerings. In fact, 57% of public sector organizations are now prioritizing offering training to employees on new platforms and solutions as a benefit that they hope will lead to improved employee retention.
The Road to Adoption
The State of Tennessee's learning program was so successful because the HR department had clear goals in mind. "Developing a learning culture takes more than just saying 'let's create a learning culture,'" Holliday said.
Public sector HR must create a plan of action to guide them before they can establish effective L&D programs. Organizational decisions tend to be made at the top, so it's important to gain buy-in from leadership even before discussing learning content or strategy. According to a recent survey from Project Management Institute, one in four organizations have had projects fail due to a lack of executive support. But when executives are involved in a project from the beginning, it is more likely to come to fruition. "When they build it, they support it," Holliday said.
Once HR teams receive that buy-in, they can begin to develop an L&D program that will drive employee growth in all levels and teams across your organization. This means designing programs that provide new and emerging managers with the skills they need to be good leaders. For instance, someone who has never managed a team might take a course on fundamentals of management or emotional intelligence for leaders. They might even approach a more experienced manager to serve as their mentor.
Offering training to managers and supervisors will impact not only their own professional journey, but also that of their subordinates. Establishing a culture of learning will help managers set a positive example for their employees, and encourage junior employees to begin planning their own career development. And when employees feel empowered, their overall performance and commitment to their work also improves.
To keep up with the competition, public sector agencies and organizations must take a holistic approach to employee development. L&D programs are most effective when linked to other HR activities, such as hiring, onboarding and performance management. By offering employees the opportunity to do meaningful work and participate in a comprehensive talent development culture, government organizations will be able to attract and retain the workforce of the future.
Photo: Creative Commons
Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.
Webinar sob demanda
3 Key Attributes of Holistic People Experience Design
Your employees crave a work experience that’s uniquely personal, and where growth and development is rapid and continuous. At the same time, your organization needs to be ready to retrain and redeploy talent to remain competitive in rapidly shifting market conditions. The stakes are high. And yet historically, work design has centered on efficiency. The result is rigid structures and workflows that don’t meet employees’ needs or flex with fast-changing conditions. The good news is that effective practices around people experience design can drive significant impact for business, people, and innovation in an organization. In this webinar, Betsy Summers, Principal Analyst, Future of Work with Forrester Research, and Mike Bollinger, VP, Strategic Initiatives with Cornerstone, share how taking a more human and holistic approach to people experience design connects people with growth opportunities, and business goals with purpose. To help everyone achieve extraordinary outcomes — together.
Webinar sob demanda
How to use AI and skill intelligence to grow your people and organization
Today, only 17% of organizations use AI-based solutions in their HR function, and only another 30% plan to do so by 2022. And yet, AI has the potential to increase HR scalability, recognize patterns in people’s behavior and offer personalized support where and when needed. Whether using AI to help hire the best job candidates or relying on it to recommend the best learning content and personalized development plans or the optimal career path, AI has the potential to help your people grow and thrive through change. And in turn, help your organization uncover better insights about the business, make predictions, and effectively respond to dynamic market changes. Speakers: Ben Eubanks, principal analyst and Chief Research Officer, Lighthouse Research Ike Bennion, Director of Product Marketing, Cornerstone Henry Vasquez, Product Manager, Cornerstone Join Ben, Ike, and Henry as they share valuable insights into how AI and skill intelligence can help talent leaders tap into skills, content and people data to create a more tailored and personalized employee experience for every person you employ. In this webinar you’ll learn: How to leverage AI to improve and personalize the experience for your people in real, practical ways Why you need to establish skills as the universal language of growth and success across the business How AI and skill intelligence can help people be better at their jobs and grow in their careers View today to learn how you can use AI and skill intelligence to create a culture of skill-based growth and develop a workforce ready to adapt to any future.
Webinar sob demanda
Enabling career growth is your competitive advantage
In today‘s environment of unrelenting business transformation, roles are shifting quickly. Skills are becoming obsolete faster. Your organization needs to identify, acquire, and develop the skills needed to transform, compete in new markets, and thrive. So how do you upskill your people in a scalable way that keeps you competitive rather than constantly playing catch-up? In short, by providing career growth opportunities. But often, employees think it’s easier to find a new job outside their company than inside. And in many organizations, there are internal cultures holding back career growth and internal mobility. In this webinar, Global Industry Analyst Josh Bersin shares why it’s time to navigate the shift from jobs to work, and the importance of connecting skills development to a career path in order to drive people and organizational success. Companies that do this well (through a combination of technology, HR processes, and culture) are the companies that will grow, outperform, and out-innovate their peers. In this webinar, you will learn: How to accelerate career growth based on people’s skills, interests and potential How to tap into hidden talent by surfacing skill adjacency How to use holistic people data rather than instinct or unintentional bias to build a sustainable talent pipeline