Six Workforce Trends to Watch
By MissionSquare Research Institute
State and local governments, along with other public-service organizations, faced yet another challenging year. Recent research by MissionSquare Research Institute highlights key strategies to become public-service employers of choice in 2023.
1. Communicate the full value of benefits. The wages advertised for a position represent only a small portion of the full value of a job’s financial and other benefits. Public-service jobs often include more than traditional benefits like health insurance, pensions, and deferred compensation. Benefits also can include paid leave, life insurance, flexible scheduling, and student loan or housing assistance, not to mention greater job stability in the public sector.
2. Customize recruitment appeals. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs are important to many jurisdictions’ recruitment and retention efforts. Each position’s recruitment plan may include new audiences, active partnerships with outside agencies, and outreach that communicates in ways that best resonate with audiences. Tailor campaigns to appeal to candidates with different benefit focuses depending on their life stages or economic circumstances.
3. Maintain retirement plan funding. While 2021 data showed steady funding for retirement plans, 2022 brought significant economic volatility impacting individual finances and worker anxiety. The first mission for plan sponsors is to weather volatility and commit to maintaining actuarially determined contributions. Full funding of retirement plans supports the dual goals of long-term fiscal stability and leveraging retirement plans to serve as effective workforce recruitment and retention tools.
4. Restructure the workforce. The recession and Great Resignation have been significant disrupters to the public workforce status quo, offering opportunities to rethink future staffing models. Workforce restructurings anticipated in 2023 and beyond stem not only from the pandemic and economic changes; they are also tied to evolving technologies touching every field from customer service to accounting to transportation. And while automation may not fully replace certain jobs, it is certain to contribute to job restructurings, the need to update job descriptions, and the consideration of part-time or temporary staffing models.
5. Take a holistic view. The pandemic normalized the idea that it is okay for workers not to be OK. Now, there’s a focus on worker mental health and burnout as real concerns that employers must take seriously. And as persistent inflation leads to consideration of compensation changes, it will no longer be enough to point to cost-of-living adjustments. Rather, employers should lean into difficult conversations with team members about their financial stress, workload, health, or childcare issues.
6. Prioritize data-driven decision making. The Institute’s recent DEI survey found a majority of governments identified workforce DEI as a priority, yet about a quarter are not tracking DEI results. Institute research also found 85% of governments are performing exit interviews, but just 37% are performing employee-satisfaction surveys, while only 11% are conducting stay interviews. Public-service workforce management cannot be viewed as something that is only managed at budget time or at the end of a worker’s career. Instead, it requires timely analysis of recruitment results, regular check-ins with existing staff, and strategic action on the data collected to avoid preventable staffing or retention problems.