Last week, we discussed the 'the Great Resignation' phenomenon which is causing employees across multiple industries to reconsider what they want from their careers. According to a Microsoft study conducted earlier this year, an estimated 40% of global workers are considering quitting their jobs and in both Europe and America, the number of resignations has skyrocketed.
With a similar pattern starting to emerge in Australia as the country navigates how to function amidst COVID-19, Public Sector People wanted to look at the great resignation trend from the employer's perspective – especially within the public sector. As we move into a new era of work, what should local councils and government organisations do to prepare for this increase in job mobility and how can they ensure they retain their best talent? We explore these issues below:
Prioritise Your EVP
Establishing and effectively communicating your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) – the ecosystem of support, recognition and values that an organisation offers its employees – plays a significant role in retaining your talent. When communicated well, an organisation’s EVP should effectively answer the question ‘why should I work for this organisation?’ With so many employees reconsidering what they want from their careers and questioning if the grass is greener, having an effective EVP in place that demonstrates the ways in which an organisation supports and encourages its employees to achieve their highest potential, will make it far less tempting for them to stray. In fact, technology research and consulting firm Gartner conducted studies that found organisations that adjusted and focused on improving their EVP, saw a 28% reduction in staff turnover rates (Gartner, 2021).
For local council or government agencies to effectively communicate their EVP, they need to firstly, highlight the organisation’s key values through their networks as a way to introduce potential candidates to the organisation. This means looking at the key channels potential candidates would initially interact with; your organisation’s website, your social media and your job advertisements. Do these touchpoints reflect your values and mission? For example, does your website have a clearly defined and visible mission statement, so visitors can understand the purpose of the organisation? Do you have employee testimonials that speak to what it's like working for local government or the council itself or even documentation on training options and career progression that’s easily accessible to potential candidates?
Once these tactics are in place, government agencies must then consider how these values can continue to be reinforced throughout the employee lifecycle in order to ensure staff retention (Paltos, 2020). An organisation that promises all of these great benefits and initiatives at the initial ‘attraction’ phase of the employee lifecycle but can’t follow through on any of them, won’t be able to keep a new employee for very long. Consequently, it’s important to consider how your EVP can be reinforced during the recruitment phase of the lifecycle, where it is naturally tied into conversations that you have with candidates, the onboarding phase, where it can be reflected in an employee’s induction and initial management, and the development phase, where it can be demonstrated through training offerings and supportive programs. It’s even worth considering how to effectively use your EVP messaging during the separation phase of an employee lifecycle in order to alleviate any concerns a departing employee might have and leave a lasting good impression (Paltos, 2020).
Establish Your Work From Home Plan
As countless survey results over the last eighteen months have told us, employees enjoy having the flexibility to work from home and post-pandemic aren’t looking to transition back into being in the office full time. In a recent working from home report conducted by the Australian Productivity Commission, along with research from PwC Australia, three-quarters of Australians want a hybrid of home and work arrangements moving forward (Coade, 2021). More specifically, in a separate survey conducted within the Australian Public Sector, most public servants preferred working from home at least three days a week (Coade, 2021).
Traditionally the public sector hasn’t always been flexible with its working-from-home offering, partly because of the sensitive information many agencies have to deal with, partly because of the essential services they offer and partly because of the legacy systems many organisations had in place. Even now, the reality of what is possible and what working arrangements are available to those working within government, depends on the nature of work and the industry they work in. For example, someone working for the National Parks and Wildfire Service might be required to work onsite more than someone working in the Australian Tax Office. However, lockdown restrictions in many states across Australia both last year and this year proved that many departments could function remotely, and organisations need to carefully consider how they can continue facilitating this for employees moving forward. The challenge however lies in managing flexible working as different employees will require different levels of flexibility. Organisations need to also consider how they can effectively cater to the needs of their employees while also adhering to the needs of the organisation and ensuring it can still achieve its desired outcomes. Balancing both the needs of the organisation with the needs of employees will require government organisations to conduct individual negotiations on a wider scale to determine what conditions around work-life balance will make them feel like they’re performing at their best.
In order to shift to a permanent hybrid model, departments and teams will also have to carefully consider what tasks can be performed at home, as opposed to what jobs overall can be performed at home. For example, teams can start to segment the tasks that comprise their jobs or overall outcomes, to help separate the things that can be done remotely (data entry for example) with things that can’t (first aid training) (Corby, 2021). This can help with then implementing a clear work from home plan that can meet the needs of all stakeholders – especially employees.
Professional Development & Internal Opportunities
In a recent survey Public Sector People conducted within our own network of public sector professionals, the majority (41% ) of respondents said that the biggest priority when looking for new jobs was professional development opportunities. This was over salary and flexible working which both received 28% of votes each and council or government reputation which only received 3% of votes. Similarly, a PWC Australia study showed that millennials ranked learning and development as the number one benefit an employer could offer. These statistics indicate that organisations that value the development of their employees and support their career growth within the organisation, are going to have a higher ratio of engaged and satisfied employees, who in turn are less inclined to look elsewhere.
A key way organisations can support their employees during the development stage of their employment lifecycle is to provide them with a learning and development plan. During an employee's onboarding or regualr review sessions, have team leaders/managers ask them about their career goals and what they want to achieve or learn over the next year or two. Having this intel will then allow team leaders and managers to customise the organisation’s learning and development strategy to best suit the individual’s learning needs and know the types of internal opportunities that would be of most interest to the employee. Furthermore, it’s important to actively promote internal opportunities and ensure employees feel encouraged and supported in applying for these roles. Employees are hungry for the vote of confidence from their employer and doing this demonstrates how much the organisation values their skills and expertise.
There is a common misconception that learning & development is an expensive initiative for organisations however, there are many cost-effective methods an organisation can use, such as peer coaching and mentoring, which relies on government agencies’ own talent to showcase their particular skill set or expertise with the greater team. Different departments can also hold weekly sessions, in which a team member who has expertise in one area, can share this knowledge with their colleagues and encourage peer-based learning. Not only is this a cost-effective strategy for the organisation, but research has indicated that it's also great for fostering employee engagement and innovation within a company.
Have Leadership Support
Like with any significant change within an organisation, it cannot be effective without support from the leadership team; managers, team leaders, department heads etc. Consequently, it’s important that all levels of leadership firstly agree and can correctly identify and understand the values, goals and vision behind the strategies identified above (hybrid working models, learning and development initiatives and the organisation’s EVP) The information flow in any organisation works from the top down, so if there is confusion at the top levels, there’s no way a clear vision and purpose will disseminate throughout the organisation. It’s also advised that leaders regularly come together to create/update internal policies relating to the organisation’s EVP, working from home strategy and learning and development to ensure they are consistently meeting the needs of their employees. This ties in with regularly seeking out feedback from employees as the organisation progresses through the implementation of a new process, to ensure the changes being made are effective and are having a positive impact on staff members.
Ultimately the ‘great resignation‘ presents an opportunity for government agencies to reassess how their organisational structures best serve their employees. By gaining a strong understanding of the shifting priorities of workers within this new era of work and adapting processes to accommodate for these shifting priorities, organisations have the opportunity to improve employee engagement and strengthen their chances of retaining talent during a turbulent job market.
 Gartner. (2021). Strengthen Your Employee Value Proposition. Gartner. Retrieved from: https://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/insights/employee-engagement-performance/employee-value-proposition
 Paltos, J. (2020). Why an EVP Is The Secret To Attracting Top Talent. Seek Employer. Retrieved from: https://www.seek.com.au/employer/hiring-advice/why-an-evp-is-the-secret-to-attracting-top-talent
 Coade, M. (2021). APS ‘future of work’ Trends Call For Extra Middle Management Training. The Mandarin. Retrieved from: https://www.themandarin.com.au/173384-aps-future-of-work-trends-call-for-extra-middle-management-training/
 Corby, S. (2021). Hybrid Power: Where Future Employees Will Choose To Work. The Mandarin. Retrieved from: https://www.themandarin.com.au/172980-hybrid-power-where-future-employees-will-choose-to-work/