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Searching for Talent in a Web 2.0 World – Succession Planning Offers Adaptability

Public services can be potentially transformed using succession planning and Web 2.0 tools.  When both tools are combined, government services can be made more transparent, collaborative and interactive.  Without incorporating Web 2.0 in succession plans, it is unlikely that transformative claims about an open government will become a reality.  Succession planning can address aspects of organizational culture that work against a more open government because as numerous observers point out, the power of organizational culture in public and private organizations has the potential to derail the best of plans (Shein, 1992).

While the definition of “Gov 2.0” is evolving, it presents itself as an idea where citizens are plugged into government.  Succession planning can prepare tomorrow’s workforce for the Open Government Initiative.  Succession planning tools serve to fill positions with groups representative of current demographics.  The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has a web page with considerable information on succession planning.  Up-to-date succession planning that employs Web 2.0 technologies and takes into account demographic changes, globalization and diversity has the potential to alter public service permanently.  Diversity includes race, gender, ethnicity, age and gender orientation.  Age runs the gamut from WWII veterans to the ‘net’ generation.  The latter has technological competencies, but not necessarily cultural competencies that come from experience.  However, the ‘net’ generation may be able to embrace policies without fully understanding the barriers to making information public and accessible to all (Jaeger and Bertot, 2010). Collaboration refers to the process where citizens and public servants can participate in government decision-making (McDermott et. al 2005).

Web 2.0 technologies were introduced before public human resources learned how to manage knowledge production. Web 2.0 includes social networking, microblogs, applications (called apps), wikis, blogs, Twitter, Mashups, Pinterest, Foursquare and Facebook.  The list here is not exhaustive because new communication tools are introduced daily.  These tools can help with representation, diverse viewpoints, participatory decision-making, efficiency and effectiveness.  Gov 2.0 is pregnant with possibilities to do more with less, to share information, engage citizens and to offer information transparently. However, it takes  planning to achieve possibilities, especially if there are barriers toward changes.  The recruitment of diverse talent is necessary but not sufficient to accommodate changes.

Web 2.0 tools can help introduce a practice where government insiders are no longer the information keepers. Today, information dissemination is highly decentralized through blogs, social networks, text messaging, photo sharing, wikis and virtual worlds such as Second Life – the Web 2.0 World.  Training and succession planning can use technology shifts to facilitate changes in the public service. Succession planning in the late 20th century served to bridge knowledge, skills and experience.  Even though baby boomers are hanging onto their jobs, new talent needs a link to the organization’s culture and history to manage the Web 2.0 changes.  Not only is it important to use technology to hire and recruit, it is also important to bridge the knowledge of previous generations with today while also building a more representative bureaucracy. Succession planning is a tool that demands a work force that uses up-to-date technology, achieves diversity, collaborates and shares information with transparency.  These tools are not only about maintaining the memory and culture of an organization, but also about competing for new talent in an increasingly global and diverse world.


Recruitment in a Web 2.0 World

There are everyday examples of government agencies participating in third-party social media sites like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. Social media recruitment may draw talent to increase transparency, collaboration and citizen engagement.  A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center found that 82 percent of the public goes to government websites for information, accessing data or for a service (Smith, 2010). Recruitment of this generation will not be easy without embracing the electronic places they frequently visit. Accounts of social media users may push the public sector, whether ready or not.  With 889.3 million human Facebook users, social media can be a venue for recruiting. There are also examples of blogs (http://www.recruitingblogs.com/ ), websites (http://hrmtoday.com/, http://www.opm.gov/ , http://www.usajobs.gov/ ), and more.  In London there is a civil service live network. These sites represent changes that can be static, interactive, transactional or transformational (Melitski, 2003).   The term “Gov 2.0” represents potential changes as a result of Web 2.0 technologies and not actual changes.  Collaboration between citizens, public servants and other interested parties introduces a brave new world for government professionals. Government work culture can preclude flexible working, collaboration, transparency and citizen engagement .  Facebook is known as a platform where individuals connect and participate in groups that can include governmental organizations.  Governments use social networking sites in addition to their own sites to inform ‘friends’ or individuals who ‘like’ them.  Net presence does not necessarily represent a shift in government culture. The shift from the role as knowledge providers to knowledge sharers does not come naturally.  As more citizens share information and ideas, future studies may reveal that they also may appreciate government work.


Authors: Kirsten K. Loutzenhiser, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Public Administration at TROY University in Tampa, FL. Robert Cropf, Ph.D., is a professor at Saint Louis University, in St. Louis, MO.  

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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.

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