Addressing Federal Labor Issues with Positive Digital Experiences


Federal agencies find themselves in a unique situation when it comes to employee attrition and rehiring. Many are facing personnel shortages and need to fill an overwhelming number of jobs to maintain public safety and service continuity. Every day, more than 12 million dedicated public servants in federal government provide critical services to the American public.

Since public service delivery is at the core of government employees’ jobs, recruitment and retention problems, the efficiency and expectations of government services will undoubtedly be impacted. With changes in the labor market, including the impending retirement of a significant generation of workers, government must quickly evolve hiring practices.

There are solutions that, taken together, can have a powerful impact. Digital engagement provides a means to better connect with prospective employees and build a communicative relationship that will keep applicants aware of their status in the application process while providing a positive image of the agency.

Understanding the situation

The “Great Resignation” has dominated headlines over the past few years, leading to shifts in the labor market spanning several industries. As companies and government develop and implement strategies to address workforce shortfalls, it’s not all grim. Findings from a Partnership for Public Service study show that federal agency employment attrition was lower than other industries. While the national average attrition reached over eight percent, federal agencies experienced only just over six percent.

The federal attrition reported in the study reflects a slow, but consistent, increase over the last six years. However, the two largest groups that showed attrition in the report where those who worked in an agency for less than five years and those worked over 20, many of whom were aged 60 or older.

The latter group reflects retiring employees whose responsibilities can be backfilled. However, the attrition of employees early in their career presents different challenges. Over seven percent of attrition came from those with less than five years of service, and nearly 15 percent of 2021 attrition came from employees in the lowest pay grades of GS-1 through GS-4.

Long-term effects of attrition can also be seen in the agencies most impacted by job losses in the report. Health occupations accounted for over seven percent of attrition in 2021, with cyber workforce and STEM occupations accounting for roughly five percent each. While still below the national average, such numbers can create downstream problems. Especially in agencies such as the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA), where a surge of new patients requires a strong workforce.

Bottlenecks can impact the ability to address those issues due to inefficient hiring processes. It was recently reported the VHA is facing, in some cases, a time-to-hire of 90-100 days, far slower than the typical 30-45 day target agencies aim to achieve.

Creating a pathway for better applicant experiences

Digital communication provides a way to meet and exceed the needs of agencies facing attrition and cumbersome application processes. From attracting quality candidates to seeing prospective employees through the hiring journey, a positive digital experience builds a relationship between the agency and applicant while keeping them engaged in a process that might take longer than originally anticipated.

A typical digital campaign centered on increasing employment applications breaks into two phases. In phase one, an agency invites qualified and interested candidates to learn more about the organization. The second phase focusses on enrolling potential candidates in ongoing communications to inform and guide them through the hiring journey. Some of the communications channels agencies can use to better engage with applicants include:

  • Email and SMS
    While email is a critical digital communications tool, SMS and text messaging are proving to be vital in outreach. Connecting with potential applicants on their phone or handheld device increases the likelihood of engagement and response. Both these channels can be used to encourage sign-up for job opening information and help identify applicant skills for job placement.
  • Tailoring information through these channels, based on applicant skills and interests, can also increase attendance at hiring events, job fairs, and training workshops. Once a candidate applies for an opening, email and SMS also offer a means for providing automated feedback on application status, as well as one-to-one communications.
  • Audience Segmentation
    Digital search can be daunting for applicants when it comes to government employment. By leveraging web, email, and subscriber information, recruiters can better target potential applicants and raise awareness about job opportunities. Developing landing pages and campaigns that speak to employment needs can help better connect applicants with openings that best meet their experience and skills.
  • Social Media
    A broader-reach channel than email or SMS, social media can serve more than just recruitment needs. When thoughtfully integrated into a recruitment campaign, social media not only provides a way to raise awareness of job openings, it helps provide prospective employees with a better sense of an agency’s work culture. This level of engagement can help set expectations of the workplace experience.

Seeing the results

Implementing a digital strategy helps move hiring projects efficiently from planning to producing results and improves the candidate experience. Engagement helps make the application process timely and more user-friendly by ensuring relevant information is delivered for opt-in participation. Further, through SMS and text messaging, agencies can expand diversity and equity in their outreach.

Find out how integrating a digital suite of communication tools can help make for more effective federal hiring strategies.

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