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Government Hiring Trends

The public sector—just like private organizations—faces a host of recruiting and hiring challenges. During this labor shortage, state and local governments are competing against private companies that may be using sophisticated recruitment tools and have the flexibility to offer many more hiring incentives such as signing bonuses. But local municipalities, state and U.S. governmental agencies are increasingly turning to digital talent intelligence solutions for help.

Add to that an expected shrinking base of experienced workers. In the latest State and Local Workforce 2021 survey of government HR professionals, 38% said retirement-eligible staff aimed to accelerate retirement—versus only 12% in 2009.

On top of that, not just anyone is cut out to be a public servant. And that applies to most government job roles – even those outside of emergency services/first-responders. The pandemic and recent events have shown us how public employees are on the front-line of crisis and disaster response, public health, sanitation, and community issues.

Critical soft skills for public sector employees

HR leaders in the state and local workforce survey, reported that the top skills needed in their workforce are “Analytical/critical thinking (74%), Interpersonal (68%) and Management (49%).

A recent govloop blog noted that federal agencies “sorely need” workers with tech skills, for example, in cloud technologies, artificial intelligence, data analysis, enterprise engineering and cybersecurity.

Last year, the Office of Management and Budget said it planned to retrain approximately 400,000 federal employees (about 20% of the 2.1 million federal civilian employee workforce in 2020).

Some other HR challenges for government agencies:

Lengthy and cumbersome recruiting and hiring processes.

So how are municipalities, state and local governments, and public sector agencies tackling these challenges?

Digital reference checking speeds and eases hiring with predictive analytics

From January to June 2021, our government clients entered 11,347 candidates in SkillSurvey Reference—our online reference checking solution that enables references to provide online feedback in hours versus days, sometimes weeks.

Look at some of the ways they benefited:

  • Feedback delivered—not ignored. On average, 91.6% of references responded to requests for feedback. Per candidate, government clients heard from an average 4.22 references for each candidate.
    Responses in hours—not weeks. The median reference response time was under half a day. That’s a huge improvement from responses in days or weeks that many organizations endure after requesting feedback via phone, email and USPS mail.
  • Detailed and candid feedback. In the new digital workforce shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, hiring managers need to know about candidates’ soft kills—including the ability to handle a crisis, or ability to work remotely by exhibiting emotional maturity, being adaptable and having professionalism. References can be the best source for information on a job candidate’s soft skills. But it’s critical that references also feel comfortable providing detailed insights. By providing confidentiality and convenience through online job specific surveys that relate to the job role, references can provide ratings on the individual competency behaviors like problem-solving, responding to feedback, and professionalism. They also can feel safe providing comments about strengths the candidate may possess or areas where a candidate needs to improve. SkillSurvey provides those masked comments to interviewers and hiring managers in a detailed comprehensive online report, along with feedback from a candidate’s other references.
  • Guarding against bias. With digital intelligence solutions, government agencies can support compliance with reference surveys designed by I/O psychologists with continual anti-bias training. This provides a structured, uniform process for all job candidates. The SkillSurvey team continually validates its data to ensure that there is no disparity among ratings by race, gender, and other protected classes.
  • Sourcing for future talent. To help plan for more retiring public sector workers, government agencies are also using digital talent intelligence to source more creatively. Good people know other good people, and job candidate’s references can be a rich source for new potential talent. Many of our clients are automating recruitment with digital invitations and opt-ins—as part of SkillSurvey Source.
  • Job-specific soft skills. Our reference library includes hundreds of job specific surveys across key job families including communications, administrative, accounting, healthcare, social worker, customer service, and information technology, to name a few. We also have a growing library of surveys created for specific public sector roles. Some recent surveys our team has rolled out include:
  • Firefighter/EMT
  • Police Chief
  • Probation Officer
  • Unemployment Specialist

Post-Hire solutions provide HR leaders with a dashboard of analytics across the employee lifecycle.

Once hired, gather ongoing employee and supervisor feedback to learn whether recruiting processes are targeting the right individuals and setting the right expectations and onboarding is setting up new employees for long-term success. With SkillSurvey Post-HireTM, you can send automatic surveys on candidate experience, onboarding, hiring manager feedback, employee engagement, and exit surveys. This gives you a real-time dashboard of analytics on the entire employee lifecycle so you can pinpoint where changes might need to be made to improve retention and engagement.

The search is on for qualified workers who can adapt during a crisis, exhibit strong soft skills, and have the know-how to make government run smoothly. Local, state and federal public sector agencies that can source and recruit digitally will have an advantage in this highly competitive labor market.

Discover new, more effective ways to find and hire workers. Set up a demo or try it today.

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