Employers have a direct impact on the financial stability and economic mobility of their workers. When offering living wages, good benefits and career pathways, they can ensure a strong financial footing for their workers’ families, now and in the future. Municipal governments are often one of the largest employers in a region, frequently employing city residents and a higher proportion of women and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) individuals than other employers.
By leveraging this position, municipal governments can begin increasing economic mobility for residents through their workforce. They can assess municipal wage and benefits policies to uncover inequities across job categories and ensure that all employees are paid a living wage, receive competitive benefits and have access to opportunities that can financially stabilize households. They also can incorporate inclusive recruitment and hiring policies to ensure they are employing residents in BIPOC communities or other communities with high needs. By implementing these program and policy levers, and sharing their successes with the broader employer community, they can serve as a model for other employers in the region, thereby boosting economic mobility for a more significant proportion of families within their jurisdiction.
Unique city roles and levers to strengthen the municipal workforce:
- Model Employer – Improve wages and benefits of municipal staff directly and share the successes of these offerings with other large and small business owners.
- Equity Leader – Implement inclusive, equitable municipal hiring practices to provide opportunities for more BIPOC residents.
Considerations for Local Leaders
Recruitment of underrepresented communities
Ensuring that municipal employment is open and accessible to all within a community, including those historically excluded, such as BIPOC residents, is an important step to advancing equitable economic mobility. Cities should consider strategies that ensure they are recruiting a workforce that reflects the diversity of their residents. Additionally, collaboration with schools and local vocational training programs should be encouraged to create pipelines directly to municipal jobs. These efforts take time and resources but offer a great payoff if implemented successfully.
Municipal staff pay
Municipalities are often unable to provide wages that are competitive with private sector employers within their region. To combat this, cities have created benefits packages including pensions and paid time off, such as family and medical and maternity/paternity leave, that can help them compete with the private sector for talent and the retention of talent. Additionally, municipalities should consider completing compensation reviews to ensure pay equity and annually assess wage and benefit policies overall to uncover equity issues across job categories.
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many to rethink what they want in a job. Having more control over their schedule and working hours has become even more important to workers. However, municipalities are limited in the amount of flexibility in remote work and hours of operation that can be offered to staff without impacting operations. Additionally, some departments, such as police or public works, may not have any flexibility in these areas because of their missions and required on-site nature. Cities should consider retention strategies, such as offering opportunities for staff to play similar roles in other departments, that offer flexible schedules to meet their needs. Additionally, municipalities should consider noting if positions allow for any flexible scheduling (either hours or remote work) in job descriptions to ensure they recruit individuals that understand the requirements of the position.
Private sector engagement
Investments that support the municipal workforce are important building blocks for advancing economic mobility in communities, but they are not often showcased or shared with other employers within the region. Cities can have limited regular engagement with employers operating within their jurisdiction, often relying on local chambers to engage businesses. This lack of authentic engagement limits cities’ ability to model practices with others and requires engagement early and often beyond business needs or sharing of grievances. Cities can engage local business groups to provide information on their employment and retention strategies and outcomes to date. Additionally, they can ask private and nonprofit employers to share their own offerings and recruitment and retention strategies that cities could replicate to create the most effective benefits package to secure and retain staff.
Cities in Action
See how cities are implementing strategies to address these issues.
Contacting the NLC Economic Opportunity and Financial Empowerment (EOFE) Team
Reach out to us for more information about advancing equitable economic mobility or to discuss strategies that can address the challenges your community is facing.