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Surfing the Silver Tsunami

Patrick Devlin

Senior Vice President, Fishtree

There is an exponentially growing need for effective talent management strategies in the public sector, and I’m honored to lead the team dedicated to delivering this to the market at Cornerstone. What’s the primary catalyst within the public sector workforce today? The impending silver tsunami. Our aging workforce. Boomsday!

The term "Boomsday" is a reference to the satirical 2007 novel by Christopher Buckley about the fallout that could occur when a majority of the Baby Boomers begin retiring. Well, fast forward six years and Boomsday has happened, and while all industries are subject to the fallout from baby boomer retirement, the public sector is taking a bigger hit than most. For example, the Human Capital Institute reports that 60 percent of the government workforce and 90 percent of senior leadership will be eligible to retire by 2015. And according to the U.S. Department of Education, the United States will need to hire three million teachers in the next five years due to rising enrollments, growing retirements and high rates of attrition for beginning teachers.

When you couple facts like these with budget cuts and competition from the private sector, the public sector is now facing numerous challenges that directly call for an integrated talent management strategy and approach.

Preparing for the Aging Workforce

Approximately 25 percent of full-time career federal government employees and U.S. Postal Service workers are currently eligible to retire. There were more than 60,000 retirements in the first half of 2012, and according to Office of Personnel Management (OPM) projections, by the end of 2015, more than half of the 7,746 senior executives in place at the beginning of 2011 will have left government positions. It is critical for you to preserve and facilitate the knowledge-transfer to new generations of employees.

Meeting Talent Shortages

One key to thriving in the face of retirements and furloughs is ensuring existing employees are engaged, productive and prepared. You should create and track a long-term development plan for every employee. In the private sector, organizations with high-quality development plans for all employees have 26 percent higher revenues than companies that do not. Encourage your current employees to grow and improve themselves—it increases engagement and productivity, which in turn reduces sourcing and hiring costs.

Planning for Millennials

Without an effective talent management strategy targeted towards retaining the millennial workforce, agencies are risking losing future executives and leaders. A Corporate Executive Board analysis showed that Millennials are already leaving the public sector workforce at an alarming rate – in 2011, US government employees under the age of 30 quit their jobs at a rate of 5 times higher than their counterparts over the age of 30. The new generation of workers is demanding. They excel when they receive continuous and immediate feedback, and respond positively to formal processes for career paths and development plans. So give it to them, or risk losing them. And guess what? The other generations of workers you are supporting will enjoy these programs, too.

Sourcing and Developing Future Leaders

Sourcing for leadership positions and critical roles doesn’t happen overnight. You should track performance and competencies and build on these to develop multiple succession scenarios months or even years in advance. You must coach and cultivate the skills of anticipated successors and develop and promote internal talent.

Competing with the Private Sector

Public sector agencies need an edge in sourcing talent. By moving recruiting practices into the 21st Century you can streamline the process of evaluating, tracking, sourcing, screening and assessing candidates and build a viable internal talent pipeline to ensure readiness for any position vacancy.

I’m passionate about the potential impact talent management professionals can have in the public sector. I believe you can move your organizations beyond meeting today’s needs, to developing long-term, sustainable, successful and productive workforces. In the coming months, I will be addressing the full gamut of topics impacting talent management professionals today, including but not limited to workforce planning, succession planning, the multi-generational workforce, learning and development, compliance training, recruiting and performance management. It is indeed a target rich environment of topics. I look forward to the conversation.

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