State Governments Wrestle With Finding New Talent

State Workforce

A new report from the National Association of State Chief Administrators (NASCA) in collaboration with Accenture and NEOGOV shows that job openings in state governments are reaching new highs, but fewer people lining up to fill them.

The survey includes responses from chief administrators and human resource (HR) directors in 33 states, a survey of nearly 3,000 state-government job seekers, and analyses of over 14,000,000 public sector job postings.

According to the results, attracting new talent to fill open positions is the top concern for chief administrators and HR directors. When respondents were asked which trends have the greatest impact on their workforce strategy, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of state administrators cited the growing skills gap, indicating that recruiting the best talent, with the right skills, is a top issue for these leaders in state governments.

The survey findings point to a growing need on the part of government agencies and offices to improve and modernize the employee experience. Respondents cited less-competitive salaries, rising competition from the private sector and negative perceptions about working for the government as factors that are keeping people away. Younger generations also view the lifetime employment that government positions can provide less favorably than they have in the past. Indeed, new entrants to the workforce expect a higher paying and much more flexible working life than many government agencies and offices are prepared to provide.

The value proposition of government work has also changed. Government employees are paying more for healthcare and getting less. Pension benefits – if they exist – have been slashed while out-of-paycheck contributions are also climbing.

For jobs in mission-critical areas like cybersecurity or tech, lower wages and fewer resources for upskilling mean that the most talented employees are likely to stay in the private sector.

The report pushes for public sector employers to rethink their approach to recruitment by focusing on what potential employees could learn or be a part of while on the job. Job descriptions could use an update as well. Government should move away from complex lists of government jargon and credentials, and toward plain English explanations of what the jobs are and who is qualified.

Report authors suggest that if state governments rebuild their brand by telling better stories about what it means to work in government, the result would be a net positive for recruitment while also helping to restore public trust in civic institutions. Adding options like work-from-home or flextime also have broad appeal and can be accomplished without increasing resources already allocated for a given role.

The full report is available here.