Survey: Local Government Can Compete With Private Sector at Hiring Younger Workers

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Incoming workers’ desire to do good makes county and city employment a perfect fit—if jurisdictions can make the often-smaller pay palatable.

Branding and tech advancements are critical for local governments attempting to replace fast-retiring employees with a younger, more diverse workforce, especially when tight budgets often limit salary competitiveness.

According to the recently released “Workforce of Tomorrow” report from the Local Government Research Collaborative (LGRC) and Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE), selling job candidates on the merits of public service and boosting office efficiency with data and automation make succession planning easier.

Benefits and the option to telecommute, as well as internships and professional development opportunities, also attract incoming workers to local government.

"Local governments who respond quickly will capture promising job candidates,” Bob O’Neil, the International City / County Management Association’s executive director and SLGE board chairman, said in the announcement. “We need to convey the excitement of the opportunity and tell the great stories about local government careers."

Most undergraduate and graduate students, 56 percent, have a “somewhat favorable” opinion of local government and 36 percent a “very favorable” opinion, according to the survey, reflecting a willingness to consider public sector work.


Those that had no intention of pursuing a career in local government, 12 percent, often indicated greater interest in state and federal government or nonprofit work, a distaste for bureaucracy or a desire for more workplace flexibility.


Less encouraging is the survey’s finding that more than half of students plan to stay in local government for 5 years or less, compared to the employee average of 7.1 years between 2000 and 2014.


How do local governments increase the odds a talented young job candidate will opt to work for them and stay? By overhauling human resources to be an advisory department that strategically recruits innovative employees for starters, according to the report.

Speeding up the bureaucratic hiring process and offering chances for advancement are others, and in a way that conveys enthusiasm for government work.

“The most important factor in becoming an employer of choice is to build a great brand that defines what it means to work for this organization and what this organization stands for,” Libby Sartain, a former Yahoo HR director, told SLGE.

Read the full report here.

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

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