CPS HR Consulting

Innovative Employee Hiring and Retention Strategies For The Public Sector

Employee hiring and retention strategies are essential tasks for organizations. HR professionals spend around 73% of their time on administrative activities which are manual and repetitive. Cumbersome HR processes make it harder for public sector organizations to hire and retain talent.

Recruiting and onboarding take longer, which can result in talented applicants abandoning the hiring processes. Plus, current employees struggling with antiquated internal systems may accept a job at a more tech-forward company in the private sector.

To improve recruitment and employee retention in the public sector, you need a fresh approach.  

Understanding Recruitment and Retention Challenges in The Public Sector

An analysis by the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that there are 695,000 fewer people employed in state and local government jobs than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s clear the public sector is experiencing a labor shortage crisis. Existing employees are exiting faster than new ones are entering.

There are three factors contributing to the current talent deficit:

1. Competing against the private sector

The private sector tends to offer more appealing remuneration packages. Plus, a better employee experience and more opportunities for advancement. On the other hand, public sector organizations have a reputation as being bureaucratic and uninspiring. They also offer lower salaries and limited growth opportunities.

2. Burnout and the great resignation

Government employees faced enormous pressure during the Covid-19 pandemic. As working conditions took their toll on workers, some hit burnout and quit. Many of these employees have reevaluated their priorities and are unwilling to accept jobs that no longer fit their values.

3. Baby boomers are exiting the workforce

Most baby boomers are over 60 and retiring, leaving a gaping hole in the workforce. Replacing the boomers presents new challenges, as many job seekers want flexible working conditions. A survey by Virtual Vocations showed that nearly half of Gen-Xers and Millennials search for remote work on job boards.

When revising your recruitment strategy, it’s important to understand what dissuades people from joining or remaining in the public sector.

Employee Branding and Recruitment Strategies

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To attract talented candidates, you may need to rebrand your organization into an employer of choice and revamp your recruitment strategy.

Improve Your Brand Image

Today’s job candidates look for employers with similar values reflected in the organization’s culture.

Is your workplace culture positive, transparent, and diverse? Are your employees proud to work for the organization?

Happy employees will be your greatest brand ambassadors. They won’t hesitate to tell others what makes your organization a great place to work for.

Explore Different Recruitment Channels

Expand your job advertising beyond the usual government job boards to other recruitment channels, such as:

  • Local community forums
  • Industry-specific job boards like an IT job board
  • Social media channels
  • Traditional media like newspapers and television

Other ways to find candidates include:

  • Headhunting
  • Networking events
  • Job fairs and career expos
  • Partnerships with educational institutions
  • Cross-recruitment with other public sector organizations

Enhancing the Candidate Experience

Government employee hiring processes are notoriously long and exhaustive. By the time you select a candidate, they may have abandoned the process or accepted a job elsewhere. You can improve the candidate experience by digitizing the recruitment process.

Here’s how automation and artificial intelligence (AI) can make the recruitment process more efficient:

  • Generative AI tools, like ChatGPT, can help you draft appealing job ads optimized for different recruitment platforms. You can also use these tools to create candidate personas that target candidates more strategically.
  • Automated selection eliminates time spent manually sifting through applications and removes unconscious biases in candidate selection.
  • Candidates can keep track of their applications online.
  • Once you’ve hired a candidate, the system can automatically send letters of regret to unsuccessful candidates.

Employee Onboarding and Retention Programs

If you want to retain employees, you need to improve the employee experience. You can do this by:

Improving Your Onboarding Process

Starting a job at a government organization often involves a lengthy induction program. Digital onboarding tools like virtual reality and gamification apps are creative ways to train new employees quickly.  

Creating a Collaborative Culture

A collaborative workplace culture brings employees with different skills and competencies together in teams. This can make employees feel valued and improve employee engagement.

Implementing Employee Recognition Programs

There is a direct link between employee recognition and employee retention. A survey by Achievers found that 69% of employees said recognition and rewards would encourage them to remain with their current employer.

Providing Opportunities for Growth

Creating an employee development plan that includes training, upskilling and mentoring reassures employees that the employer supports their career goals. Investing in your employees’ growth can significantly reduce employee turnover.

Embracing Flexible Work Arrangements

Work-life balance is important to employees. When choosing between two similar positions, 80% of U.S. workers would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexibility.

You can’t offer remote working to all public sector employees, but you can provide flexibility in other ways.

These include:

  • Flextime arrangements that allow employees to set their workday schedule.
  • Hybrid work models that enable employees to split their time between the office and working from home.
  • Sabbaticals and study leave to pursue advanced degrees.
  • Time off to attend to a personal crisis.

Key Takeaways

The public sector is experiencing a labor shortage crisis. To attract and retain candidates, public sector employers need to understand what motivates employees in order to develop successful employee hiring and retention strategies.