As workplace expectations change, local government employers need to adapt

Constrained by inflexible budgets, local government employers cannot compete with the lucrative salaries offered in the private sector. And while recruitment has always been a challenge for public employers, the past two years have been particularly difficult. From January 2020 to the same month this year, government organizations lost about 600,000 jobs, more than manufacturing, wholesale trade and construction combined, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“What has changed is the value that the private sector offers: high compensation, flexibility and rapid career progression. What workers, especially young workers, want has also changed,” it read. a new Deloitte report, “Government Can Win the Talent Race—Here’s How.” Young workers are looking for flexibility in their jobs, independence and work-life balance.

While this evolution began a few decades ago, the pandemic has accelerated the trends. This transformation cannot be underestimated. After two years of Zoom meetings and telecommuting, remote and hybrid working situations have become expected in all walks of life.

Amidst these changes, staff turnover is unprecedented.

For example, the Texas State Auditor reported a 38% turnover among state employees under the age of 30. And last November, the US Department of Labor reported that 3% of all workers (or 4.5 million people) had left or changed jobs.

“For many, the pandemic has prompted a reflection on what is most important in their lives. It turns out that work wasn’t as important as many thought, and people became less willing to center their lives around their work,” the report said.

The emerging talent crisis has prompted a response from industry advocates, especially given the influx of federal dollars that’s about to flow to cities and counties via bipartisan infrastructure and infrastructure legislation. American Rescue Plan Act. In a joint statement, the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the International Association of City/County Management and the National Association of Counties on Friday called for a national strategy “to invest in the national workforce.

Ahead of anticipated labor demands in the near future, “it is imperative that all levels of government come together to support the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ‘great resignation’ that followed, and the aging of the country’s population. basic infrastructure,” the statement read. Beyond the changes that can be implemented within local organizations, the organizations cite the need for Congress to “support employers and meet their urgent labor needs.”

Actions the federal government could take include providing “large-scale investment in our country’s workforce development systems and programs to invest in skills training to meet employer demand” and “Increase legal immigration by increasing caps on employment-based visa programs to expand the pool of qualified individuals for hard-to-fill jobs in communities across our country, truck drivers and equipment operators burdensome to agricultural workers, nurses and engineers,” the statement continued. .

Deloitte’s report notes that at least part of what is causing the public sector labor shortage is “a shift in worker attitudes”, which is “rebuilding the workforce work, as retiring baby boomers are replaced by Gen Z. The result is a massive shift in what workers expect from their relationship with their employer.

The report identifies five values ​​that could drive change: A desire for flexibility in all dimensions; “a job that suits me”; a budding entrepreneurial spirit among young workers; a focus on wellness; and a need for purpose and impact from the work.

Given this shift, as well as the coming “silver tsunami,” an expected surge of seniors as the baby boomer generation ages, today’s challenges could worsen “unless the government update its approach to hiring and retention,” the report said. “The oldest members of Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) are now 25, and the youngest are only 10. This cohort will be the hiring target for the next decade or more, and their interests are very different from those of baby boomers and Gen Xers, who now occupy the highest positions in government.

The report outlines a number of steps local government employers can take to make their organizations more attractive. “Government agencies should rethink how they will manage and reward workers using both wage and non-wage incentives that better align with new worker values,” the report says. For example, provide flexibility whenever possible and broaden the hiring pool for older workers. Create a culture of respect and inclusion, and increase compensation. Encourage and empower workers to pursue independent and diverse projects. Provide non-traditional benefits and support workplace mental health. Improve brand image and focus on career paths.

In practice, this can mean permanent remote or hybrid work policies, flexible hours, better medical and dental coverage, unlimited paid time off, free meals and employee discount programs, carer days and benefits. pet-friendly housing, and student loan relief.

Although there is a great deal of uncertainty in today’s economic outlook, one thing is certain: “The underlying shift in workers’ values ​​is here to stay. To remain competitive, organizational workforce practices and policies must adapt to reflect changing worker values ​​and preferences: flexibility, culture, entrepreneurship, well-being, and purpose.

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