Improving Recruitment and Retention for Local Governments Today

One of the biggest challenges for local government in today’s workplace is employee turnover. The loss of department heads and other senior employees creates organizational vulnerabilities and destabilizes productivity ultimately impacting service delivery. This is not news to many of you experiencing vacancies. A better question is how are you defending your organization to limit vacancies or learning from those employees who are walking out the door to different opportunities?

  • Hindsight is 20/20 – when you have a senior level employee depart, take the opportunity to do an exit interview. Do it yourself to eliminate any filters and hear the feedback personally. When you delegate this to HR, you are missing an opportunity to show respect for the departing employee and to demonstrate to your employees your personal interest in making the organization better and maybe more resilient. Listen carefully to what is being said (and what is not). Often people leave because they don’t feel valued…by you, by elected officials, by their peers. Maybe its compensation concerns and a lack of action or determination to really consider lagging pay. It might be they are going to a better opportunity with bigger responsibility and more compensation.
  • Employee Stay Surveys – this does not have to be a formal effort. Some Managers just take the time to chat employees up at lunch or maybe an employee event or spend time attending a department meeting. Plan to take notes and find out: why they like your organization – what keeps them here? Is there more the organization can do to make their work time productive? What do you look forward to when coming to work? Are there items that really bug you on a regular basis that we can change? You may develop themes and identify issues for your team to address.
  • Peel the Onion –if policy-based concerns arise, it’s time to check all attitudes at the door and roll up your shirt sleeves. Start asking why the policy exists and keep asking why until you understand the reason the policy was initiated originally. After you complete your research, your team may find that the policy is no longer needed, or alternative methods to address the issue, or you may find the policy needs to remain. The exercise to examine a policy sometimes might be enough for those who expressed concern about its perceived fairness or application. More often, you will learn about the organization and how you can actively strengthen the workplace culture.
  • Thriving and Growing – check on your workplace culture. If your job descriptions and position announcements still look the same as they did 10 years ago, it’s time to refresh and renew those tools. Are you considering how and IF employees are supported on a regular basis? Consider establishing affinity groups to help your workforce in their daily efforts but also in those areas where they are challenged by their circumstances. Look at your equity and inclusion efforts…what practices have you undertaken that made your workplace one of belonging? How are your professional development dollars allocated? Is that precious resource only going to your senior management or are you growing all of your employees? Do you have policies that favor one group (senior level employees?) versus the newly hired? Are you celebrating enough? Sometimes, we are so busy doing that we forget to recognize the hard-fought accomplishments of our team. And, sometimes, we forget to take care of ourselves…lead by example and take the time off to spend with your family; and do some self-care.

Looking around at the local government leaders of today, it is encouraging to see individuals who are stepping up and embracing this ever-changing workplace landscape. Your communities and your organizations are benefiting from your efforts!

Article By: Katy Rush, Vice President, GovHR USA