The Human Capital Challenge Facing State and Local Governments

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Connecting state and local government leaders

Workforce issues are a top concern, according a new survey from Route Fifty and the Government Business Council.

Some of the biggest organizational weaknesses cited by state and local government employees are in areas critical to attracting and retaining younger workers, who often only stick around a job for a few years versus becoming long-term career employees.

Baby Boomers are increasingly retiring from government, and only 41 percent of employees feel prepared to handle the loss, according to a new survey from Route Fifty and Government Business Council released Wednesday that garnered responses from 928 state and local government employees from across the United States. Overall, “Human Capital and Workforce” was identified as the No. 1 management challenge by 37 percent of respondents; 90 percent of respondents identified it as a challenge.

Tightened government budgets exacerbate the situation—almost a quarter of employees surveyed naming the issue their top challenge and more than half facing more red tape around funding and grants.

If technological advancements and data efficiency are key employment selling points for younger workers—as found in the recently released “Workforce of Tomorrow” report from the Local Government Research Collaborative (LGRC) and Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE)—lacking the funds to improve on those issues could see talent head for the private sector.

Only 43 percent of employees said their organization had the budget to modernize its information technology, according to survey from Route Fifty and Government Business Council, and 48 percent believed they were able to effectively recruit workers with IT expertise.

And a mere 44 percent of employees surveyed said people within their organization had the training requisite to make data-based decisions.

The good news from the LGRC and SLGE survey was that 56 percent of undergraduate and graduate students had a “somewhat favorable” opinion of local government and 36 percent a “very favorable” opinion—frequently mentioning a desire for a meaningful job that made a difference.

But lower salaries that often come with public sector jobs must be made up for in other areas like automation in the office and solid benefits, which 70 percent of respondents said were on par with the private sector, according to the survey findings from Route Fifty and Government Business Council.

Suburban and rural governments have the added challenge of enticing millennials who often seek more urban amenities when searching for public service work, so the LGRC and SLGE recommended revamping human resources for strategic recruitment of innovators.

Developing a brand that shows younger workers jobs in local government are worthwhile was another suggestion.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty

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