Voices from Accenture Public Service


In my last blog, Job One for States: Reimagine Your Workforce, we saw that a recent NASCA study –  conducted in collaboration with Accenture and NEOGOV – concluded that the public sector is falling behind the private sector when it comes to competing for the workforce of the future.

On a positive note, the survey affirms that state government leaders know they have some serious workforce challenges. The less good news is that they don’t seem to be acting quickly enough to close the gap. Fortunately, the report is filled with examples for states to energize their efforts.

The first recommendation – Reshape Recruiting – focuses on improving the flow of potential talent into the government workforce. The report identifies three key ways for states to do that: modernizing job descriptions, developing your people and building your brand. I’d like to take closer look at the first, as I believe modernizing job descriptions is the foundation to winning the war for talent.

In the NASCA study, I was not surprised that just 18 percent of state leaders reported that they have updated and modernized job descriptions, roles or classifications to a large or very large extent. In fact, as we were preparing the full research report, a handful of states shared that while they’ve made some updates to job descriptions, they haven’t taken a comprehensive look since the 1980s.

One state shared they have an IT job description that still mentions modem skills; another has one listing typewriter experience as a requirement for an executive assistant position. It’s the recruiting equivalent of showing up to a party in 2019 with an 8-track tape. And while those stories might be good for a chuckle, the need to take action is serious.

My frontline experience in this area supports the urgent need for change. It has convinced me that a thorough, disciplined review and refresh of job descriptions is worth any state’s time and trouble. How you describe state jobs will set the tone not just for the talent you are trying to recruit, but also for the talent you are trying to develop and retain. And the assessment exercise itself is likely to yield insights and opportunities that extend well beyond fixing outdated language on your job board.

Consider, for example, that this process may identify opportunities to cross-train existing employees on in-demand skills or to apply intelligent automation to offload repetitive, lower-value tasks. You may be able to make a business case to adjust compensation higher – or you may discover that, at least for some roles, your state’s total compensation package is more in line with market rates than you thought.

For example, we completed a recent study of market-relevant compensation for more than 1,100 IT employees in a major state. The study confirmed the suspicion that some job families, such as security architects and application developers, were underpaid compared to the market. But other job families, such as desktop support and customer service representatives, were overpaid!

How is your state working to reshape recruiting? I invite you to read more about modernizing job descriptions, developing your people and building your brand – including some inspiring case studies from numerous states. In my next post, I’ll touch on the second set strategic recommendation: Transform Employee Experience.

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