Shifting Our Focus to Navigate the Municipal Workforce

October 1, 2018

Auburn Mayor Linda Blechinger, GMA President

This article appeared in the September 2018 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
M uch of what we do with the city and our other commitments is focused outward, responding to external demands and pressures and looking to the future. Something that a lot of us don’t focus on, or focus on enough, is taking a hard look inward at our city staff and develop recruitment, retention and succession planning strategies to meet the needs of our cities.
Like most of you, I’m extremely proud of the individuals that comprise the staff of our city. They are dedicated, caring individuals that truly want the best for our city and its citizens. But we as elected officials have some hard truths to face—an aging workforce and the differing expectations of work of the millennial generation.
Every day 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65, and while millennials already outnumber baby boomers in the workplace, the Pew Research Center says that millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by the middle of the next decade. And let’s not forget Generation Z, the generation following the millennials; it is estimated that this generation will be even larger in size than the millennials.
A positive aspect of the increasing number of millennials in the workforce is their desire that their work have a meaningful purpose and to contribute something positive to their community. They want a mission. This is something we need to increasingly capitalize on as we recruit and retain the municipal workforce. A recent GMA survey of municipal employees hired in the last two years indicates that 75 percent of the survey respondents felt that the “opportunity to make a difference” was either the “most important” or a “very important” reason for them accepting the job with the city. Sixty-three percent of the respondents indicated that a “sense of common purpose” was an extremely important factor in their decision-making process. This bodes well for cities in the future. We just need to be dedicated to the task of providing opportunities that encourage and support the desire of these workers to commit to mission-driven public service.
The demographic changes we’re experiencing also call us to seriously evaluate our succession planning initiatives. The brain-drain caused by the increasing number of retirements can significantly impact our ability to deliver services. This is especially true where an employee with specialized knowledge or a wide range of city experience is set to leave. It is incumbent on us as the executive leaders of our cities to support the establishment of plans that enable continuity in these situations. As former city manager Patrick Ibarra shared in his May 2018 editorial with Georgia’s Cities, “…effective succession planning is an ongoing process of identifying, assessing and developing talent to ensure leadership, management and supervisory continuity…” And remember, just as supporting the mission driven desire of millennials is good for morale, so is creating a succession planning process that promotes people from within.
GMA staff and the members of the Municipal Workforce Advisory Council are continuing to work on and develop resources for cities to use to navigate the changing dynamics and demographics of the workforce. Your association is committed to helping you and your city develop a workforce that allows your city to shine.

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