Wooing the next generation of government workers. PLUS: Rebounding exurbs and paying for the green transition.
The last week has seen one huge news item after another at the national level. From the Jan. 6 committee hearings to earth shattering (though not unexpected) rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s been a lot to digest. Here’s what you may have missed at the state and local level.
The silver tsunami has started. When will it end?
More than one-fifth of state and local governments are in the middle of their biggest-ever retirement wave while four in 10 believe their peak in retirements will happen in the next few years. That’s according to new workforce survey data released this week by the Mission Square Research Institute.
Meanwhile, 69% of government respondents said they saw more quits over the past year than in 2020 when the pandemic hit. It’s no wonder then, that state and local governments have only recovered about half of the jobs lost during the pandemic while other sectors have fared better.
To woo more workers, here are the most common workforce changes of the past year:
Hiring contract workers
Updated job specs for minimum education/skills
Permanent telework options
Considering these changes, it makes sense that the hardest jobs to fill (healthcare, engineering, policing, dispatch, building permitting and inspections) are ones where in-person work is generally required and lowering educational or training requirements isn’t really an option.
So what does this mean for the future of government hiring? Governments have to play to their strengths. That’s not going to be pay, although salaries still have to be increased to make jobs more attractive. (According to the survey, governments have more jobs open than people applying for them.) And retirement benefits used to be a strength, but not so much anymore after all the pension benefit cuts made after the Great Recession.
Instead, governments can bank on something else: quality of life benefits. More than half of government respondents say they now have flexible scheduling or hybrid work options and nearly one-quarter offer full-time telework to eligible employees. In addition, report author Gerald Young said, some places are adding student loan repayment help or childcare stipend programs for employees. And there’s one benefit candidates won’t find at many other workplaces: a real opportunity to make a difference in their community. In fact, 14% of governments said they have communications campaigns around that public service aspect.
“For all the hardships of the past two years, 59% of public employees have indicated they valued their ability to be of service during the pandemic,” Young said during a webinar this week. “This is really an opportunity to build upon that and recognize that service is a motivation and…that might be what helps [candidates] decide to take a job.”
The exurbs are back
Remember when the housing market bubble burst and all those planned housing developments with their newly carved-out streets, sidewalks and curb cuts were abandoned? For years, I have driven by one small version of this in my little rural/exurb community in Maryland. One year into the pandemic, houses suddenly got built and they quickly filled up.
This sort of thing is happening in other places and one report credits remote work for putting some exurbs back on the list of “fastest growing” counties.
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