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Counties rethink jobs to broaden hiring pool

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    Counties rethink jobs to broaden hiring pool

    While the private sector has won back 93 percent of the jobs lost since the pandemic began more than two years ago, the public sector has gained back only 53 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    A key way to find more talented workers? Reevaluate job requirements, using skills-based hiring criteria instead of relying so heavily on formal education credentials. Another way to attract top talent is by offering workers greater flexibility.

    Those are takeaways gleaned from a MissionSquare Research Institute survey that will be released at the end of June, according to Joshua Franzel, the institute’s managing director. The institute was formerly the Center for State and Local Government Excellence at ICMA-RC.

    Taking a skill-based approach to hiring “seems pretty edgy for government,” said Ramona Farineau, chief financial officer for Boulder County, Colo.

    But the Colorado county first took that step in 2014, when HR managers got together with commissioners to rewrite all job postings, she said.

    “We did our homework. We looked at the Fair Labor Standards Act,” she said. “Out of 375 job classifications, we originally got rid of 84. Now that’s up to 99.”

    Managers initially were worried about how to choose the best candidates, Farineau said. “HR has had to hold hands,” as managers learned their own new skills.

    They had to learn “to hone in on what is really required. If you’re not asking for a degree, you have to be really specific” about qualifications. But, she added, a first-level accountant “doesn’t need a degree, they need to know debits and credits and how to do accounting.”

    The MissionSquare Research Institute survey results point to another important way government employers can attract top talent — by offering greater work flexibility, Franzel noted.

    “Re-evaluate how and where work is conducted. Even before the pandemic, flexible work arrangements were becoming popular and the number of positions that can have flexibility has increased,” he said.

    Fifty-four percent of state and local government now offer some type of hybrid scheduling. 

    Some private companies have been able to offer much more flexibility by allowing their employees to work from out of state, something that became popular during the pandemic, Farineau said. For county governments, that can be complicated.

    “It became an issue during the pandemic, when we were 100 percent remote. People want to be with their family,” she said. Boulder County’s policy is that employees can work up to three months out of state and “when we said they had to come back, one person said ‘no.’ The person had relocated to California. They moved on.”

    The stumbling block to allowing that degree of flexibility is dealing with other states’ workplace laws and regulations, she said. “The workers comp question comes up over and over again.”

    The MissionSquare Research Institute survey suggests a number of other areas for county governments to focus on in order to improve hiring and retention:

    The overall compensation and benefit package: Retirement and health insurance are still the backbone of public-sector benefits packages, Franzel said. But a lot of county governments “are looking at non-traditional benefits such as subsidized childcare, commuting subsidies and student loan reimbursement.”

    Financial wellness: In the private sector, financial planning has long been an offering in a company’s Employee Assistance Program. The pandemic, with its high-level of economic stress, has increased public-sector employees’ desire for such programs, according to Franzel. He said that an innovative EAP that includes financial wellness helps a county be seen as an “employer of choice.”

    Outreach efforts: County governments should reach out to communities — such as first-generation Americans — that wouldn’t normally consider public service, Franzel said. Not only does this expand the county’s recruiting pool, but it can help the county better reflect the community as a whole.

    Recognition: Employees are keen to be recognized internally by their peers and externally by the local community, according to the survey. An added advantage to giving workers public recognition, Franzel noted, is that it can be a recruiting tool. The practice is a way of “showcasing employees as ambassadors who highlight positions that people wouldn’t have thought of applying for.”While the private sector has won back 93 percent of the jobs lost since the pandemic began more than two years ago, the public sector has gained back only 53 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    A key way to find more talented workers? Reevaluate job requirements, using skills-based hiring criteria instead of relying so heavily on formal education credentials. Another way to attract top talent is by offering workers greater flexibility.

    Those are takeaways gleaned from a MissionSquare Research Institute survey that will be released at the end of June, according to Joshua Franzel, the institute’s managing director. The institute was formerly the Center for State and Local Government Excellence at ICMA-RC.

    Taking a skill-based approach to hiring “seems pretty edgy for government,” said Ramona Farineau, chief financial officer for Boulder County, Colo.

    But the Colorado county first took that step in 2014, when HR managers got together with commissioners to rewrite all job postings, she said.

    “We did our homework. We looked at the Fair Labor Standards Act,” she said. “Out of 375 job classifications, we originally got rid of 84. Now that’s up to 99.”

    Managers initially were worried about how to choose the best candidates, Farineau said. “HR has had to hold hands,” as managers learned their own new skills.

    They had to learn “to hone in on what is really required. If you’re not asking for a degree, you have to be really specific” about qualifications. But, she added, a first-level accountant “doesn’t need a degree, they need to know debits and credits and how to do accounting.”

    The MissionSquare Research Institute survey results point to another important way government employers can attract top talent — by offering greater work flexibility, Franzel noted.

    “Re-evaluate how and where work is conducted. Even before the pandemic, flexible work arrangements were becoming popular and the number of positions that can have flexibility has increased,” he said.

    Fifty-four percent of state and local government now offer some type of hybrid scheduling. 

    Some private companies have been able to offer much more flexibility by allowing their employees to work from out of state, something that became popular during the pandemic, Farineau said. For county governments, that can be complicated.

    “It became an issue during the pandemic, when we were 100 percent remote. People want to be with their family,” she said. Boulder County’s policy is that employees can work up to three months out of state and “when we said they had to come back, one person said ‘no.’ The person had relocated to California. They moved on.”

    The stumbling block to allowing that degree of flexibility is dealing with other states’ workplace laws and regulations, she said. “The workers comp question comes up over and over again.”

    The MissionSquare Research Institute survey suggests a number of other areas for county governments to focus on in order to improve hiring and retention:

    • The overall compensation and benefit package: Retirement and health insurance are still the backbone of public-sector benefits packages, Franzel said. But a lot of county governments “are looking at non-traditional benefits such as subsidized childcare, commuting subsidies and student loan reimbursement.”
    • Financial wellness: In the private sector, financial planning has long been an offering in a company’s Employee Assistance Program. The pandemic, with its high-level of economic stress, has increased public-sector employees’ desire for such programs, according to Franzel. He said that an innovative EAP that includes financial wellness helps a county be seen as an “employer of choice.”
    • Outreach efforts: County governments should reach out to communities — such as first-generation Americans — that wouldn’t normally consider public service, Franzel said. Not only does this expand the county’s recruiting pool, but it can help the county better reflect the community as a whole.
    • Recognition: Employees are keen to be recognized internally by their peers and externally by the local community, according to the survey. An added advantage to giving workers public recognition, Franzel noted, is that it can be a recruiting tool. The practice is a way of “showcasing employees as ambassadors who highlight positions that people wouldn’t have thought of applying for.”
    It's a good time for counties to rethink, or rewrite, job postings to keep up with a changing labor market
    2022-06-20
    County News Article
    2022-06-28
It's a good time for counties to rethink, or rewrite, job postings to keep up with a changing labor market

While the private sector has won back 93 percent of the jobs lost since the pandemic began more than two years ago, the public sector has gained back only 53 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A key way to find more talented workers? Reevaluate job requirements, using skills-based hiring criteria instead of relying so heavily on formal education credentials. Another way to attract top talent is by offering workers greater flexibility.

Those are takeaways gleaned from a MissionSquare Research Institute survey that will be released at the end of June, according to Joshua Franzel, the institute’s managing director. The institute was formerly the Center for State and Local Government Excellence at ICMA-RC.

Taking a skill-based approach to hiring “seems pretty edgy for government,” said Ramona Farineau, chief financial officer for Boulder County, Colo.

But the Colorado county first took that step in 2014, when HR managers got together with commissioners to rewrite all job postings, she said.

“We did our homework. We looked at the Fair Labor Standards Act,” she said. “Out of 375 job classifications, we originally got rid of 84. Now that’s up to 99.”

Managers initially were worried about how to choose the best candidates, Farineau said. “HR has had to hold hands,” as managers learned their own new skills.

They had to learn “to hone in on what is really required. If you’re not asking for a degree, you have to be really specific” about qualifications. But, she added, a first-level accountant “doesn’t need a degree, they need to know debits and credits and how to do accounting.”

The MissionSquare Research Institute survey results point to another important way government employers can attract top talent — by offering greater work flexibility, Franzel noted.

“Re-evaluate how and where work is conducted. Even before the pandemic, flexible work arrangements were becoming popular and the number of positions that can have flexibility has increased,” he said.

Fifty-four percent of state and local government now offer some type of hybrid scheduling. 

Some private companies have been able to offer much more flexibility by allowing their employees to work from out of state, something that became popular during the pandemic, Farineau said. For county governments, that can be complicated.

“It became an issue during the pandemic, when we were 100 percent remote. People want to be with their family,” she said. Boulder County’s policy is that employees can work up to three months out of state and “when we said they had to come back, one person said ‘no.’ The person had relocated to California. They moved on.”

The stumbling block to allowing that degree of flexibility is dealing with other states’ workplace laws and regulations, she said. “The workers comp question comes up over and over again.”

The MissionSquare Research Institute survey suggests a number of other areas for county governments to focus on in order to improve hiring and retention:

The overall compensation and benefit package: Retirement and health insurance are still the backbone of public-sector benefits packages, Franzel said. But a lot of county governments “are looking at non-traditional benefits such as subsidized childcare, commuting subsidies and student loan reimbursement.”

Financial wellness: In the private sector, financial planning has long been an offering in a company’s Employee Assistance Program. The pandemic, with its high-level of economic stress, has increased public-sector employees’ desire for such programs, according to Franzel. He said that an innovative EAP that includes financial wellness helps a county be seen as an “employer of choice.”

Outreach efforts: County governments should reach out to communities — such as first-generation Americans — that wouldn’t normally consider public service, Franzel said. Not only does this expand the county’s recruiting pool, but it can help the county better reflect the community as a whole.

Recognition: Employees are keen to be recognized internally by their peers and externally by the local community, according to the survey. An added advantage to giving workers public recognition, Franzel noted, is that it can be a recruiting tool. The practice is a way of “showcasing employees as ambassadors who highlight positions that people wouldn’t have thought of applying for.”While the private sector has won back 93 percent of the jobs lost since the pandemic began more than two years ago, the public sector has gained back only 53 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A key way to find more talented workers? Reevaluate job requirements, using skills-based hiring criteria instead of relying so heavily on formal education credentials. Another way to attract top talent is by offering workers greater flexibility.

Those are takeaways gleaned from a MissionSquare Research Institute survey that will be released at the end of June, according to Joshua Franzel, the institute’s managing director. The institute was formerly the Center for State and Local Government Excellence at ICMA-RC.

Taking a skill-based approach to hiring “seems pretty edgy for government,” said Ramona Farineau, chief financial officer for Boulder County, Colo.

But the Colorado county first took that step in 2014, when HR managers got together with commissioners to rewrite all job postings, she said.

“We did our homework. We looked at the Fair Labor Standards Act,” she said. “Out of 375 job classifications, we originally got rid of 84. Now that’s up to 99.”

Managers initially were worried about how to choose the best candidates, Farineau said. “HR has had to hold hands,” as managers learned their own new skills.

They had to learn “to hone in on what is really required. If you’re not asking for a degree, you have to be really specific” about qualifications. But, she added, a first-level accountant “doesn’t need a degree, they need to know debits and credits and how to do accounting.”

The MissionSquare Research Institute survey results point to another important way government employers can attract top talent — by offering greater work flexibility, Franzel noted.

“Re-evaluate how and where work is conducted. Even before the pandemic, flexible work arrangements were becoming popular and the number of positions that can have flexibility has increased,” he said.

Fifty-four percent of state and local government now offer some type of hybrid scheduling. 

Some private companies have been able to offer much more flexibility by allowing their employees to work from out of state, something that became popular during the pandemic, Farineau said. For county governments, that can be complicated.

“It became an issue during the pandemic, when we were 100 percent remote. People want to be with their family,” she said. Boulder County’s policy is that employees can work up to three months out of state and “when we said they had to come back, one person said ‘no.’ The person had relocated to California. They moved on.”

The stumbling block to allowing that degree of flexibility is dealing with other states’ workplace laws and regulations, she said. “The workers comp question comes up over and over again.”

The MissionSquare Research Institute survey suggests a number of other areas for county governments to focus on in order to improve hiring and retention:

  • The overall compensation and benefit package: Retirement and health insurance are still the backbone of public-sector benefits packages, Franzel said. But a lot of county governments “are looking at non-traditional benefits such as subsidized childcare, commuting subsidies and student loan reimbursement.”
  • Financial wellness: In the private sector, financial planning has long been an offering in a company’s Employee Assistance Program. The pandemic, with its high-level of economic stress, has increased public-sector employees’ desire for such programs, according to Franzel. He said that an innovative EAP that includes financial wellness helps a county be seen as an “employer of choice.”
  • Outreach efforts: County governments should reach out to communities — such as first-generation Americans — that wouldn’t normally consider public service, Franzel said. Not only does this expand the county’s recruiting pool, but it can help the county better reflect the community as a whole.
  • Recognition: Employees are keen to be recognized internally by their peers and externally by the local community, according to the survey. An added advantage to giving workers public recognition, Franzel noted, is that it can be a recruiting tool. The practice is a way of “showcasing employees as ambassadors who highlight positions that people wouldn’t have thought of applying for.”
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