As I pointed out in my last post, now may be the best time to shape up and tighten down all aspects of your HR programs, and particularly your approaches to retention and recruiting. In the days to come, agency HR is likely to face challenges on all fronts—from Congressional measures to limit the size of the government workforce to aggressive competition for talent from corporations emerging lean and hungry from the recession.
Our team at TMP Government has been wrestling with the implications of this long view, and we have identified several areas where your agency can get the most bang for the buck in holding steady amid the disruptions to come..
Let your workplace culture shine. Of course you want to attract the best and the brightest with your employer value proposition, but you should also make sure that the work environment you provide has comparable staying power with the top performers you already have on board. Don’t be naïve: other agencies, pressed by attrition and scarcity on the recruiting front, will be looking to poach not only your stars but your supporting players too. Take pains to keep all your valuable performers satisfied that your agency’s culture meets all their needs for support and personal development.
Fortify your employer brand. What’s the net recruiting value of making the top tiers in the Partnership for Public Service’s “Best Places to Work” ranking? It’s certainly high today, and will likely skyrocket amid tomorrow’s inter-agency competition for the best talent. Qualified students and other potential recruits who are inspired by the public service ideal are still out there, although admittedly not in the high numbers of a year or two ago. Ask yourself how well your agency stacks up against others as a potential employer in the eyes of an intelligent and discerning candidate. Then let a frank assessment of your existing brand guide you in a good faith effort to refine it—i.e., to make the reality of your workplace match the promise of your branding.
In recruiting, engage the most promising individuals at the right moment. Although ‘targeting’ may sound a bit harsh, it’s exactly the right idea when it comes to identifying the segments of candidates most likely to advance your agency’s mission and at the same time thrive in your culture. Smart ‘audience’ research is the key to productive engagement; the more precision you achieve in this task, the more successful and cost effective you’ll be in engaging and on-boarding recruits likely to stick around for the long haul. Focus the same precision approach on choosing outreach events and media. Not all online and/or social sites will be equally productive for all agencies or for all circumstances. Study and refine your results on the fly. Don’t just shoot from the hip.
While you have time, spend it on supercharging the efficiency of your HR processes and systems. Chances are that the next few years will be marked by shrinking resources in government HR departments. The agency that can make the most of what it already has will have the advantage. Focus right now on getting your systems and processes up to snuff. Agencies that can bring successful candidates on board quickly will have an edge. Increased online communication and interactivity among recruiters—and among recruiters and interested candidates for that matter—will help the best HR departments keep a handle on recruiting quality individuals as fiscal and operating restraints tighten.
Not one of these countermeasures is in itself a solution to the challenges you face, but, implemented together, they should help you steer a straight course through the gale warnings on the horizon.