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Labor Force Components: Who Are We Attracting As Public Service Professionals?

imagesRecruiting in all sectors of the workforce is the process of generating a pool of qualified applicants for organizational jobs. As staffing competition among the private and the public sector becomes more evident, recruiting and retention practices continues to be a challenge for the human resources departments of many public agencies. Klingner and Nalbandian (2003) pointed out that as the workforce continues to change and the availability of qualified labor becomes scarcer, the public sector will need to become more responsive and resilient to compete with the private sector for the same resources (p.206).The labor market components consist of the inverted triangle which is: labor force population, applicant population, applicant pool and individuals selected. The broadest labor component is made up of the entire labor force population who are available for selection during the recruitment process. In order to utilize all available sources for the recruitment and selection process a number of different methods must be considered such as newspaper ads, job fairs, table days at colleges and universities, word of mouth, community events, diversity conventions, open house events and public service announcements as well as an easily accessible online internet website to begin the application process.

The applicant population is considered to be a subset of the larger labor force population. For example, a public organization might be interested in reaching out to a specific pool of applicants with an MPA degree to be recruited as trainees for available open management positions. This method being so specific results in a different group of applicants being available from the pool of general applicants. During this recruiting process, the advertising method chosen is optimum and is augmented with employment agencies for specific open positions. The recruiting message will represent exactly what the job entails. Therefore care has to be taken according to its wording, that would exactly match the job functions needed for a public agency. This is followed by the minimum qualification, the level of education, certification if necessary and whether a civil service exam is part of the requirement in order to be considered as a viable candidate. It is then from this applicant pool that those who are evaluated will be able to continue on through the selection process.

Strategic planning for human resources is a process that outlines how work is divided within the structure of the organization and these jobs are the vehicles through which the organization accomplishes all plans and goals. The public sector is forever under the watchful eye of the media, therefore the dichotomous balance between politics and administration is a particular area that requires ongoing attention by every public sector organization. Here each agency must make the concerted effort to seek and retain a high performance and diverse workforce in which employees’ differences are respected and valued to better meet the varying needs of the diverse customers that serve the community at large. This is accomplished by fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment that promotes collaboration, flexibility and fairness so that all individuals are able to participate and contribute to their full potential (DOL, 2013). As an added opportunity for the community, local public organizations are reaching out to high school seniors through their mentoring programs so as to give them needed exposure to the many areas and opportunities for a future career in the public sector.

Being able to get and recruit the very best and brightest in the workforce is not the only concern for organizations as efforts to reduce turnover means the continuity of current employees provide better “employee image” for future recruiting efforts for attracting and retaining other individuals to the organization. A general survey by a number of organizations found that the greatest contribution to organizational success is to get and retain their employees. Klingner and Nalbandian (2003) pointed out two theories that define employee performance satisfaction and the opportunity towards retention: equity theory which helps us understand how a worker reaches the conclusion that he or she is being treated fairly or unfairly and expectancy theory which attempts to reconstruct the mental processes that lead an employee to expend a certain amount of effort toward meeting a work objective. It is the premise that motivation depends on how much an individual wants something (the strength of valance) relative to other things, and the perceived effort-reward probability (expectancy) that they will get it (p. 220-21). Organizations therefore have to be mindful of pay structures, work load, job satisfaction, proper training and upward career goals in order to attract, recruit and retain the brightest employees. With that said it is optimum to keep in mind that the public sector is never in a quandary of recruiting the smartest and brightest, as it has always been a training ground for the private sector. Frequently well-trained and experienced public sector professionals will be recruited away to private sector jobs, where there are many varying salary opportunities as well as other incentives that are not easily matched by public sector organizations.

Therefore, the most important emphasis that has to be adhered to is retention in the public sector workforce that is based on motivation, job satisfaction, career opportunities and competitive salaries. Other factors such as job design and the work, organizational culture and employee relationships are important strategies to be considered in how work is done and how that matches internal and external employee satisfaction. Wanting to be of service to the community and the society in general is the driving force that some future employees see as a deciding factor for selecting a public sector organization as a place to be gainfully employed. In this case, career goals are ranked well above salary requirements and other tangible incentives.


Author: Horace Blake has served three full terms as HOA Commissioner for the City of Carrollton and has occupied an advisory role in matters relating to human resources issues under the direction of the City Attorney. Blake have a total of 25 years in Human Resources Management in the private sector and has volunteered with the county and the state in the capacity of teaching the youths on career management and job search techniques. Currently Blake serves on the City’s Storm Water Management Board along with being a DPA Candidate. As a member of ASPA, he is the Treasurer for the Section on Public Law and Administration.


Image courtesy of http://www.clevelandfed.org/forefront/2011/fall/ff_2011_fall_06.cfm.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

One Response to Labor Force Components: Who Are We Attracting As Public Service Professionals?

  1. Juan Garcia Reply

    May 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    As a federal employee I must say I agree with the strategy mapped out in this article. The public sector has traditionally lagged behind the private sector in most aspects. Aspiring college graduates seek employment in the public sector because they want to make a difference. In order for the public sector to retain employees and reduce attrition it need to become more competitive in the form of incentives, career ladder and mobility. In order for the federal government to revamp its image management and our leadership must be held accountable for failure to promote a desirable work environment.

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