As state and local governments, along with other public service organizations, emerge in 2022 from a challenging two years, they continue to gain valuable insights into how public employers can manage and support their current workforce while positioning themselves to attract new talent. Recent research by MissionSquare Research Institute (formerly the Center for State and Local Government Excellence) highlights strategies and steps governments can take to be employers of choice.
Based on its research, the Institute offers six workforce trends to watch in 2022:
1. Showcasing the importance of public sector roles — Throughout the course of the pandemic, the public has learned much about the crucial roles that public health, education, and other key state and local government workers fulfill every day. The toll of the pandemic on essential workers, especially teachers, has been substantial. At the same time, there has been a renewed sense of public service pride and increased acknowledgement of the essential work these employees perform. Public sector employers in 2022 can leverage this pride and appreciation to attract new employees, including those who previously would not have considered a career in government.
2. Tracking burnout — Employers will need to support staff with Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), wellness programs, flexibility in work arrangements, opportunities for training and development, pulse surveys or stay interviews on morale and job satisfaction, and strategies to mitigate stress. Otherwise, top workers may join the ranks of the Great Resignation at a time when 31% of public workers say the pandemic has made them consider changing jobs.
3. Supporting sustainable retirement benefits — Given the efforts of many governments to pay annual required contributions to their pension plans, along with healthy investment returns, overall public pensions are stable and well positioned heading into the new year. Also, defined contribution plans continue to play an important role in supporting retirement security in the public sector, both as primary and supplemental savings.
4. Thinking beyond traditional benefits — While retirement and health benefits will continue to be a central part of public sector benefit offerings, innovative public employers in 2022 will also explore how to support their employees in building emergency savings and adopting other nontraditional benefits such as student loan repayment and holistic health and financial wellness programs.
5. Prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals — Aside from helping public employers better reflect the communities they serve, maintaining a diverse workforce and engaging the individuals hired as valued contributors to the team can help with retention and morale and foster creativity, productivity, and improved organizational performance. As with many aspects of management, collecting and analyzing DEI data will be key to recruitment, staff development, succession planning, and adjusting to ongoing waves of retirements and the emerging impacts of automation.
6. Focusing on the drivers of the Great Resignation — Employees are reevaluating their professional goals and when, how, and where they want to work. While this is certainly concerning for the public sector (which was already facing recruitment and retention issues), it’s also an opportunity to focus on what gives public sector employers a competitive advantage and how they can respond to issues that came to the forefront during the pandemic (e.g., flexibility, remote work, childcare, paid family leave, and mental health).