As the economy reopens, HCM technology is essential for the public sector to compete for in-demand talent
Ceridian's Gianluca Cairo explains how success for the public sector hinges on a modern approach to talent acquisition
Economies in some parts of the world, namely North America and the UK, are beginning to re-open. Specifically, the U.S. economy aims to be back to normal business by Independence Day, which will no doubt usher in some much-needed normalcy across all 50 states. As of today, CDC guidelines are easing, as an encouraging percentage of Americans are getting vaccinated. By the time we reach the July 4th mile marker, that portion is expected to rise significantly.
Before the pandemic, there was much talk about the tightness of the job market, which lead to a global war for talent, with companies across sectors and geographies battling it out for their share of the same shrinking talent pool. However, the pandemic-induced recession changed that dynamic. Now, with the economy coming back online in earnest, these trends are likely to re-emerge, as companies accelerate efforts to capture top talent in order to keep up with the increasing demand of a post-pandemic world.
Meanwhile, the public sector is emerging from a challenging period that brought with it unprecedented demand for services, and there are already signs it’s beginning to gear up for its own push to replenish its ranks with the best available talent. For instance, Techwire recently reported that the state of California is actively recruiting for many senior positions, including for Chief Product Officer – a role which includes many in-demand experiences and skills, including the ability to oversee technology innovation for the state.
The market for these skills is extremely competitive, and this is becoming a concern for HR decision-makers in the space. The combination of high salaries, attractive perks, and promises of rapid advancement have given private companies the edge over government, luring the best STEM candidates to fill their positions. The stakes of this recruitment competition are quite high, and agencies today find themselves struggling to catch up with the advanced recruitment practices of the private and non-profit sectors.
However, it appears that will be plenty of sources of talent to pull from. The pandemic saw millions lose their jobs, although some have returned to the workforce in recent months. Others decided to retire, while some continue to grapple with issues such as childcare remain as schools are yet to fully reopen. And for those who were fortunate enough to continue working, flight risk due to factors like burnout and general lack of engagement loom on the horizon, meaning many may seek out new opportunities as the economy comes back online. In fact, our Pulse of Talent study released in November 2020 revealed that 64 percent of the US workforce was looking for new job opportunities, or would consider a move if approached.
While that suggests that public sector entities like the State of California could have a captive audience of job seekers, the sector has long struggled with its ability to recruit for these valuable skill sets, and risks bearing the brunt of a renewed war for talent.
The first major stumbling block in recruiting these workers is perception. Old stereotypes stubbornly persist: slow-moving bureaucracy, hierarchical structures, and despondent paper-pushing public sector employees. This deters many from choosing a career in the public service, and as we’ve said many times before, the sector must revamp its employer-brand for talent that values exciting, meaningful work and perks like flexibility.
Secondly, and perhaps intrinsically tied to employer brand, recruiting top talent will require an entirely new approach to recruiting, an overhaul to HR processes, and revisiting systems and technology to create a more tech-driven environment to suit the needs and expectations of a new generation of talent. Modern HCM technology offers an intelligent way to capture and organize suitable candidates and can help organizations streamline the hiring process and fill roles faster. HR teams can keep records of employees with transferable skills, as well as strong candidates who weren’t offered a role when they applied in the past. This technology driven approach can also abate another pain point for applicants, who often experience frustration and even walk away from public sector opportunities due to over-complicated job application processes. A lack of transparency is a common criticism, as today’s digitally savvy applicants expect immediate feedback and clarity on where their application stands. Public service recruitment processes can be excruciatingly long, drawn out affairs – much lengthier than hiring processes in other sectors. This is easily avoided by adopting online systems that smooth and streamline the application process, ensuring the best candidates aren’t lost to other opportunities.
Another key factor to successful recruiting strategies is more logical in nature, but often overlooked or ignored. When it comes to recruiting, you need to go where the talent is. While many public sector HR departments continue to advertise jobs in newspapers and traditional job boards, today’s candidates are digital-first. They connect, network, and seek jobs almost entirely thought social media channels. This is where every organization needs to be, promoting recruitment campaigns on channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to entice digital natives.
Ultimately, success for the public sector organization of the future will be driven by how well it can recruit and retain top talent, and technology is key to achieving both in the modern job market. Organizations need to act now to build a digital-first workforce that is prepared to embrace near-constant change if they hope to successfully serve the increasing and diverse needs of citizens as they evolve over time.
Gianluca is Industry Principal, Public Sector at Ceridian. Previously, he was Chief of Staff to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.