How to Attract and Retain Talent through the Government IT Workforce Crisis

By Keith L. Scott, MBA, PMP

The dictionary defines the word “crisis” in many different ways – “an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending”, “a situation that has reached a critical phase”, and “a paroxysmal attack of pain, distress, or disordered function”.  All versions of this definition are applicable when it comes to attracting and retaining IT talent in the public sector.  Today, Government CIOs are challenged with the ability to attract the best technology talent while facing a retirement tsunami in the near future.  According to the Center for Digital Government, over 30% of the government workforce will retire in the next five years and leaving with them is a wealth of business and institutional knowledge that isn’t easily replaced. 

In the past, government jobs were able to attract talent because of the perception of job security, pension plans, and health benefits.  The younger workforce is not attracted to those traditional areas.  In fact, the public sector faces stiff competition from the private sector where millennials are drawn to the attractiveness of working with modern and innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.  Moreover, Government IT is largely perceived as legacy as it pertains to technology and culture.  Therefore, Government leaders must rethink how the attract top IT talent.  Here are just a few suggestions:

Emphasize the Impact of Public Service.  It is appealing to the younger workforce to contribute to society.  Government exists to serve the community.  It is important that Government promotes its mission and satisfaction received from public service. 

Shift the Culture.  In order to attract top talent for the future, the public sector must adopt some of the work environment changes that are apparent in the private sector.  Government must provide flexible work environments that provide telework, nontraditional workweeks, and design a digital workplace.

Invest in Training.  Technology is changing at such a rapid pace, an investment in training your existing staff will help build their capacity, job satisfaction, and retention for years to come.  

Revamp or Establish a Rewards and Recognition Program.  There is an overwhelming assumption that compensation drives job satisfaction and retention.  Though it is an important criterion, it isn’t the main driver for employee retention.  In fact, the most important driver of employee retention is the desire to be acknowledged and appreciated.  Establish a rewards and recognition program that acknowledges the important contributions and achievements of individuals and teams.  Employees will go above and beyond each and every time. 

Though these suggestions are just a microcosm of initiatives that can impact the IT workforce, their impact can go far as to solving the talent crisis. 

For a FREE initial consultation on how to attract and retain top IT talent, contact us at partners@klscottassociates.com or (404) 692-5552.  

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