One of the greatest challenges facing state and local government is the recruitment and retention of qualified personnel. Nowhere is this problem illustrated more dramatically than in the recruitment and retention of qualified Information Technology or “IT” personnel. The so-called “new economy” is tremendously reliant upon IT both to staff new service areas created by new technology and to supplement old services that have been replaced with technology-based systems. This reliance on new technology and those who have the skills to maintain it creates a fundamental problem for any organization attempting to maintain proper staffing. There are simply not enough skilled people to go around.
Government organizations feel that talent crunch more than most. Like businesses, they have a responsibility to provide up-to-date services to their consumers, in this case, the citizens of a city, county, or state. Because IT skills are in such great demand, governments find it hard to compete with the private sector for qualified IT talent. State and local government fall short in several areas that contribute to effective recruitment and retention. These areas include pay, speed of hiring, flexibility, performance evaluation, and creativity. While there are no easy solutions to this problem, there are several policy prescriptions that could assist state and local government in its pursuit of information technology talent. This report outlines seven areas in which the public sector can improve, and provides examples supporting that change in each. These areas include flexible compensation, the employment of new hiring technology, the installation of an organization-wide commitment to recruiting, the recognition of employee achievement, constant skill updating and education, the allowance of an innovative work environment, and an effective publicity campaign.
There are no easy answers or simple solutions. Each policy prescription requires some resource allocation. None of the problems or prescriptions apply only to the recruitment of IT personnel. Each could be applied to address general questions of recruitment and retention. The prescriptions, however, do attempt to take the public sector’s limitations into account while at the same time addressing the often-specific nature of IT recruitment. Taken in the aggregate, the recommendations form a strategy for dealing with the difficult issue of IT recruitment and retention.