Tech layoffs have opened the door for IT talent. Now governments must close the deal.
COMMENTARY | Human capital management solutions can improve candidate experience and help agencies streamline the hiring and onboarding processes.
Waves of Big Tech layoffs have poured tens of thousands of workers into pools of potential candidates for public-sector IT jobs. Now it’s up to governments and agencies to land them, and despite somewhat better odds, they still have work to do.
IT talent has grown accustomed to tech companies’ generally streamlined recruiting, hiring and onboarding processes. In the public sector, those processes tend to be more drawn out, and it’s not necessarily because of bureaucratic hurdles. Too often, outdated recruiting and hiring processes and the rudimentary systems supporting those processes—web-based brochureware and spreadsheets—are to blame.
These inefficiencies manifest in two costly problems: excessive time-to-hire (which undermines candidate experience) and recruiting and hiring processes dependent on manual labor (which hobbles recruiter experience). Common-sense process improvements and proven technology solutions can tackle both simultaneously.
First and most important is to improve candidate experience. Despite all the high-profile layoffs, there’s still an IT talent shortage. A lengthy or poorly conceived and executed hiring process risks losing good candidates to private-sector competitors. Further, public-sector pay generally lags that of the corporate world, so it’s important to be able to differentiate and convey the societal, community and intrinsic benefits of a working for government. That requires thinking hard about how to sell a job to an ideal candidate and an finding an adaptable and easily maintainable recruiting-management system.
Reel ‘em in
While technology plays a decisive role, recruitment starts with the hard work of process improvement. What questions do hiring managers need to ask a candidate for a particular job—and, just as importantly, when do they ask those questions?
Rather than overwhelming a candidate with a deluge of inquiries up front, questions can be parceled out in digestible batches along the recruitment pathway. That helps weed out poor matches with less effort while keeping the best prospects—who typically have other options—from bailing in frustration or simply because it seems like too much, too soon. It’s also important to understand and document the different available IT positions and think through how recruiting steps differ for those positions (a team-lead role will have a different path than a programmer, for example). That sort of process analysis feeds standardization and, in turn, automation, both of which accelerate time-to-hire and improve the efficiency of the overall recruiting process.
Process analysis means asking hard questions about old habits. One example: Can an offer letter be digitally transmitted and signed rather than printed out and mailed? That couple of days could be the difference between a top candidate signing on and drifting elsewhere.
Of course, IT recruiting systems matter, and they have grown increasingly capable. They can parse data and create talent pools based on any meaningful criteria—job type, programming languages mastered, educational degrees, industry-specific expertise, seniority and combinations thereof. They can dispense online prescreening questionnaires and rank-order candidates—or even automatically disqualify them based on no-go answers.
Such prescreening can be as selective or expansive as desired, depending on the role. These systems can automate progression through the steps of the recruiting process, or, if desired, simply provide HR staff or hiring managers the information they need to make that decision themselves. Increasingly, conversational AI is being used to address candidate inquiries along the way, allowing hiring managers to automate communication both positive (a congratulations email on acing the screening interview) and negative (thank you for your interest, but alas…). Many systems also feature what amounts to internal talent marketplaces for internal temporary assignments and secondments. These systems also support skill-matching and onboarding of the public sector’s many contractors.
The public sector is taking advantage of these and other features. The state of New South Wales, Australia, combined disconnected systems that had required extensive manual intervention into a single talent-acquisition core that cut time-to-hire by 20% and time-to-onboard by 60%. Hiring managers got better visibility into talent pipelines, staff took less time to process candidate applications, the state’s brand improved with respect to prospective talent, and vacancies were filled faster.
Closer to home, Sedgwick County, Kansas, addressed a doubling of open positions and a spike in overtime costs with a system that streamlined the process of posting requisitions and tracking candidates. That reduced the manual effort needed to recruit, onboard, manage and compensate staff, trimming costs while bringing in better candidates into what a county official described as “a deeper and broader talent pool.”
The increasing digitalization of virtually all aspects of government will continue to drive demand for still-scarce IT talent. The public sector must optimize its processes and harness technology to attract, vet and hire those with the skills and—just as vitally—the desire to apply those skills for the public good.
Stefan El-Loubani is an SAP global senior industry advisor focused on human resources transformation and optimization in the public sector.