honored tradition of looking through the Sunday newspaper want ads
to find job opportunities in government will soon become an exhibit,
alongside traditional civil service systems and one size fits all
benefit programs, in the Museum of Bureaucratic Antiquities.
counties, cities and other public agencies are responding to changes
in workforce demographics and attitudes, as well as more advanced
e-recruitment techniques in the race to attract and retain the best
and brightest. Even the federal government will be changing its
ways. Yes, I know that seems like an impossible, unlikely event.
However by 2005, half of the 900,000 federal civilian employees will
be eligible for retirement.
recruitment methods, in the face of new realities, do not represent
best practices. If old recruitment methods will increasingly fail
public agencies, what is on the horizon?
The first part
of the answer involves the concept of branding. This must be
immediately distinguished from anything involving red-hot iron poles
and tissue scarring on the backside of cattle. However, even our
Madison Avenue advertising friends will acknowledge that the concept
is similar. That is, creating a mark to distinguish one property or
commodity from another. It involves the creation of distinctions,
whether real or implied, between one agency and another.
concept work? Absolutely! Just spend a few moments doing diligent
public administration research in a mall or supermarket and observe
the behavior of people who pass by generic breakfast cereal, shoe
brands, clothing or perfume to go directly to the far more expensive
brand names. These brands are often no better than the generics,
except for the allure of using a product reflecting an image created
The concept of
establishing a brand works and it is time it started working in
public agency human resources practices.
works for government agencies in the tourism and convention sales
business. Just ask the king of branding Nick Grossman, president of
the Broward County Floridas Convention and Visitors Bureau. It is
all about selling the destination as a unique and wonderful place to
spend time (and money).
In the evolving
world of human resources recruitment, the opportunity to use
branding and the risks of remaining within older, decaying model of
want ad placement is directly parallel. It is increasingly difficult
to find quality candidates for police officers or sheriff deputies.
There may be
many candidates who apply but when you screen out those with a
criminal history, those with literacy, poor attendance and work
habit problems, the number of candidates who are at the top of the
applicant pool is relatively small. There may also literally be
dozens of police agencies competing for the same candidate pool. Few
applicants for such jobs apply at only one agency.
They may have a
dozen applications pending at any given time. How do you distinguish
one public agency employer from another?
Of course, the
pay and benefits at one agency may be better than another, but that
is increasingly a marginal difference. Developing a brand for the
agency which establishes a positive and memorable image and
surgically inserts that image into the mind of the applicant is a
big part of the answer.
Another part of
the process improvement recipe in HR recruitment is to carefully and
thoroughly review every aspect of recruitment practices from the
standpoint of the candidate. What can be done to make the entire
process so much more pleasant and simple in your agency that it will
stand out in a positive, extraordinary way from what the poor
candidate has been experiencing elsewhere.
How does your
county or city practice standout compared to the competition? The
typical public agency recruitment process is littered with
inflexible rules, lack of automation, tradition bound thinking, and
restrictions placed in civil service ordinances or union contracts.
The result is
that applicants find their encounter with human resources like
crawling over broken glass. They may encounter an overworked staff,
which focuses only on making it through until 5 p.m. Instead, each
staff member should be commissioned as a positive agency ambassador,
always scanning the environment for spectacular candidates and
welcoming them in extraordinary ways.
Past HR Doctor
articles (see Simple Gifts or Free Refills at the HR Doctors Web
site) have discussed exceeding customer expectations for service. We
can apply this concept to the recruitment process by extending
recruitment office hours to make it easier on candidates who work
elsewhere during the typical business hours of operation. Make 24/7
Internet-based applications possible, and accept resumes by fax or
e-mail at the initial stages of recruitment.
applicant reception area in HR which is pleasant and comfortable.
Consider serving cookies, coffee or water to applicants. Tell the
auditors who question this practice to put down their number 2
pencils and remember what it might have been like when they were
unemployed and job searching several decades ago. When a candidate
for technology professional, for example, appears to have
extraordinary qualifications and may be in town for a couple of
days, consider a fast track application review process.
feedback to maintain the interest of the potential employee so the
person leaves thinking they just had a wow experience. These
candidates need to leave the HR office, whether they made an
in-person visit or an e-visit with a feeling that they want to be
part of this team. That approach is the best way in the short-term
and in the long run to set one agency apart from the
The fact that
it is difficult to change HR minds and practices to apply these
approaches to recruitment makes it all the more likely that an
innovative agency will have a competitive advantage in the
innovative restraints should not be blamed entirely on the HR staff
lapsing into a coma. The HR Doctor has repeatedly argued that HR is
a metaphor for the entire agency. Slow moving, sloth-like HR
practices are often a reflection of the support, or lack of it,
provided by the elected and appointed officials. These are the
leaders who ultimately set the tone and establish the height of the
bar for the practices and attitudes in the organization insisting on
innovation and excellence as an important and positive business
practice for every top manager.
It can be
powerfully argued that if these positive attitudes are not present
in the realm of HR as gatekeepers and ambassadors, then the entire
involve slogans, billboards, shrink wrapped buses or logo clothing
items. It may also, ironically, involve placing ads in newspapers to
develop brand recognition for the organization. However, want ads
will increasingly be used only to drive readers to the agencys Web
site, or to increase familiarity with the brand rather than to
actually print a long and microscopic list of job openings at the
county today. In fact, increasingly, the readers of such want ads
will be turned away because they wont be able to find their reading
glasses to focus on the very tiny fine print anyway.
idea of creating a brand for the organization is something which, in
and of itself, can be a challenging and enjoyable project for the
staff. For example, the HR Doctor recently helped create a brand
slogan to be used by one public agency which will identify itself as
providing maximum strength public service ©.
colleagues, its copyrighted! If the agency can become know by this
brand and assuming it actually pays attention to and works hard at
delivering great service, the brand can help instill pride, increase
morale and increase agency success. A few words passionately
embraced can be very powerful. Typical bureaucratic words, many in
number and robotically recited over and over again, are frustrating
and drive people, including staff people, away from supporting the
agency, its goals and even its leaders!
trademarked HR Doctor wishes you all the best.