How to Attract and Retain a Talented Workforce

This is a guest post by Steve Vermette, vice president of brokerage at Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company.

While the 2018 State of the Cities report listed economic development, infrastructure, budgets, housing and public safety as the top priorities for U.S. mayors, many communities are not properly staffed to tackle these initiatives.

Budget shortfalls and static pay have been constant challenges to the management and development of the needed public sector workforce infrastructure. However, considering 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over age 65 by 2030, state and local agencies are now facing a rapidly depleting base of existing employees along with a dramatically constricted pipeline of new workers.

To attract and retain a younger generation, communities of all sizes are renovating the traditional public sector work environment and reshaping standard employment practices.

For instance, to make the application process easier for job-seekers, the California Department of Human Resources reduced and standardized job classifications. This initiative has helped applicants outside and inside of government to better understand what positions are available as well as the required skills, knowledge and abilities needed without getting confused by department-specific jargon.

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Meanwhile, to boost retention, the Tennessee Department of Human Resources implemented the S.M.A.R.T. performance model, which rewards employees based upon their individual work performance, rather than tenure. This moved the state away from the traditional practice of giving raises to employees based on tenure and shifted the focus to performance merit increases.

While salary will always be important, it’s not the only way to build your workforce. Benefits play a key role in both recruitment and retention based on results from a 2017 Governing Institute workforce survey conducted in partnership with Colonial Life.

Sixty five percent of the Governing survey respondents said benefits have been a critical factor in their decision to stay in the public sector, while 28 percent said benefits are a best practice for attracting and retaining employees.

Historically, a rich benefits package and stable pension system attracted many workers to the public sector. With rising healthcare costs and new political demands, what was once considered a standard benefits package requires modernization to remain sustainable and competitive.

Rather than instituting a one-size-fits-all, fully-funded approach, employers are considering how multiple benefits might be structured under a single umbrella to allow employees to select those that are most pertinent to them in a more flexible manner.

According to the Governing Institute survey, a growing number of public sector agencies are offering voluntary benefits, allowing for more affordable coverage options because there’s no direct cost to the employer. More important, voluntary benefits allow employees to customize their benefit package to align with their lifestyle and personal needs.

The public sector must implement innovative solutions to address its challenges for attracting and retaining a skilled, engaged and productive workforce. Providing more flexible working conditions, integrating technology to streamline processes and enhancing benefit offerings are a few of the creative solutions being used today.

For more information and best practices for building and reinforcing your employee infrastructure, download our guide developed in collaboration with Governing Institute: “Building the Public Workforce of the Future.”

Colonial Life is a registered trademark and marketing brand of Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company.

vermette_steve_2017.jpg About the Author: Steve Vermette is vice president of brokerage at Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company. He is responsible for building integrated teams to market Colonial Life’s products, programs and services to brokers and public sector employers.  Most recently, Steve has been leveraging his industry expertise to help public sector agencies modernize and customize employee benefit programs while managing costs, so they can remain competitive in recruiting and retaining top talent.