So, you think
its hard to recruit registered nurses, police officers, computer
technicians, engineers, and many others? Just wait its going to
get a lot harder! Those are ominous words for every elected and
appointed official to hear since the success of all government
operations depends on the skills and dedication of the agency
administrative lives are getting more complicated every day. Here
are some of the major reasons in case you didnt already know.
any physician, but also ask any 14-year- old! The population of our
counties and cities seems to both grow endlessly and change
demographically. The population is older and more diverse. Such a
population requires more services from its local government,
including more expensive services, such as health care and public
In the HR Doctors opinion, based on 30 years of
experience, there is, on the whole, a palpable difference in work
habits and commitment of young folks emerging from colleges ready to
begin their careers. There will likely be less loyalty to one
employer or one profession in the years ahead. There will be a more
technologically enabled nomad group whose loyalty may be more to a
one-time project than to a long-time career commitment.
themes about which the HR Doctor has spoken (and written) about
before. See Employees as Free Agents at www.hrdr.net.
still another contributing factor. It is slow to emerge and
insidious in its impact: that is, the tendency of many running for
office to debase government service by attacking institutions and
Many candidates, including those who have run for
president over the past generation, have included in their campaigns
a litany of attacks on the bloated bureaucracy, the waste and ethics
problems of government, the failures of policy, and on and on.
In the very
same manner that television news seems to emphasize destruction over
institution-building to improve ratings, this generations style of
public service bashing has an effect. It makes government service
appear less attractive to the best and the brightest; meanwhile,
consciously or not, it steers them away from a career serving the
public. This is sad and wrong for the country.
These trends are not short term. Conventional
approaches alone will not prove effective in the long run in
addressing these non-traditional challenges. What will work?
The first step
in reading a topographic map in the wilderness to find your way out,
much like assessing an agencys HR needs, is to determine where you
are now. Review the demographics of the organization. Is there a
significant group nearing retirement? Will already-difficult
recruitment problems be compounded? Create a long-range program to
address the needs.
employee surveys and exit interviews to locate clues about what
makes the organization a great place to work and what makes people
head for the nearest exit. Pay careful and committed attention to
the results, even if the criticism may not be pleasant.
and supervisors in retention and recruitment skills. Convert every
employee into a city or county recruitment machine! Well-prepared
and attractive job announcements should be placed in every fire
truck, police car, reception area, library, and other prominent
locations. The positive behavior of a single manager or police
officer in the field can have a profoundly positive effect on morale
and the success of the recruitment effort.
advertisement techniques including e-recruitment (see the HR Doctor
article e-HR at the Web site below). Review the processes used in HR
to confirm they make applying for a job as pleasant and efficient as
possible. Remember that we need qualified applicants more than they
need us. Dont torture the applicants and make them crawl over
broken glass to apply for a job.
This brings the
discussion around to the need the imperative to review
time-honored, venerable, and out-of-date civil service rules and
regulations (the phrase itself can be scary) and modernize them.
Make them flexible and nimble without sacrificing concepts such as
merit and openness in favor of a return to past failures. These
include favoritism and decision-making based on irrelevant or
unlawful considerations such as race or religion.
Then there is
HR itself! Is it trapped in a cramped, inefficient, ugly office? Is
the staff so small and overburdened with transaction processing that
it cannot function in a strategic way? Is everyone on the staff
using a microscope instead of a telescope? If the answer is yes to
any of these questions, the elected and appointed heads of the
county or city need to act to change the situation.
HR is a
metaphor for the entire organization. The image the department
presents needs to be modern, efficient, attractive and respectful.
Its hard to do that if the staff has to apply 19th century rules in
a 19th Century office setting!
inside your own community for keys to improved recruitment and
retention. Use internships and summer and after-school work programs
for high school and college students as ways to introduce the next
generation to the honor of a public service career. Visit classrooms
and help teachers demonstrate the challenge and satisfaction of
local government service.
challenges facing local government in recruitment and retention are
great and growing. Use the challenges as opportunities to re-think
rules, practices and folklore. Use the challenges to spark long-term
improvement in the technology of HR work and in its place in the
needs to be at the right hand (or left hand, for 10 percent of the
population) of the county manager and elected officials. The first
step in recruitment/retention success is to recruit yourself to the
belief that there are serious issues ahead and being in a persistent
vegetative state wont help!
The HR Doctor http://www.hrdr.net/