State and local agencies looking to pick up staff from layoffs at tech companies should be “leaning into different flexibilities,” said one expert.
With thousands of tech and cybersecurity jobs in government unfilled, some observers see an opportunity to attract these laid-off workers from the private sector into public service.
But attracting private-sector workers may not be that easy, even as governments have been advised to appeal to people’s sense of duty and to the desire of younger workers to engage in meaningful work. Employees laid off from tech companies will be accustomed to a flexible job culture that included remote work provisions, family-friendly benefits that go beyond a good salary and health care and less bureaucracy—any of which could be a challenge to state and local governments complying with long-standing, complex workplace rules and regulations.
In a bid to attract laid-off tech workers, state and local governments could try “leaning into different flexibilities” around benefits and compensation, said Erica Ford, US government and public sector people advisory services leader at EY. That may be especially helpful if asking prospective employees to take a pay cut to move into the public sector.
“For example, there may be certain states where there are a lot of rules and regulations around compensation,” Ford said. But agencies may have some flexibility to offer bonuses or family and wellness benefits, she said. “Really leaning into that is definitely an option,” Ford added.
Ford said the growth in government jobs is partly driven by technology modernization and the need for new employees with new skill sets. And she said the “silver tsunami” of employees retiring is also creating vacancies, even as some states look to fill those gaps with technology solutions.
Government agencies should talk about their values when discussing the work that prospective employees can do, Ford said. The public sector has a story to tell about improving people’s lives, even though that work may be complex and results not realized as quickly as in private-sector tech companies.
“I think that the government often sells themselves short, because they've got unique missions in one of the most diverse and complex places in the world, the United States,” Ford said. “I would love to see more confidence [from] the government as they are telling their stories about the missions that they are supporting.”
Agencies also should not be afraid to have a “grounded conversation” about where their operations have struggles or pain points, Ford said. By telling those “three dimensional stories,” she said governments can find candidates willing to help solve those problems and make an impact, the same way they may have done in the private sector.