February 1, 2022

How AI-Based Talent Intelligence Technology Addresses the Talent Crisis in the Public Sector

Agencies in the public sector are struggling to hire and retain employees. 

Unbeatable offers from private sector employers, the retirement of baby boomers, and evolving employee expectations are fueling a talent crisis that has become one of the biggest challenges facing public sector employers.

Technology is an essential part of the solution for confronting this crisis. “Agencies need to accelerate their digital transformation efforts now to retain top talent and attract new talent to fill the gap,” writes Jonathan Benett, technical director for digital government solutions at Adobe.

Here are a few ways AI-backed talent intelligence tools are enabling HR teams at public agencies to improve their ability to recruit and retain high-quality employees.  

Talent Intelligence Tools Give Employees the Power of Movement in Their Careers

Now more than ever, employees are seeking the power of movement in their careers. “No one wants to remain in a stationary position for years on end, especially when they can see the potential for growth elsewhere,” writes Evelyn Long, cofounder and editor-in-chief at Renovated.

Before they are even hired, candidates expect prospective employers to show them a map of their career with the organization and how management will support them along that path. “Employees want to see and understand the opportunities available within their company,” writes Mason Stevenson, editorial manager at Corporate Learning Network.

“That makes a big difference in terms of people wanting to stay—a feeling that there’s this progression and this trajectory they have to this career,” says Rivka Liss-Levinson, director of research at MissionSquare Research Institute. Unfortunately, identifying those career paths is an area where many public agencies fall short, and it costs them in terms of talent acquisition and retention, she notes.

Technology gives employers the ability to step up and not only show employees where they can go in their careers within the organization but also help them get there. As Alyson Hudson, CIO of human resources at Prudential, explains, AI-based talent intelligence tools enable employers to: 

  • Identify skills over experience on resumes so they can job-match employees to roles.
  • Identify opportunities in the organization that match those skills.
  • Identify the skills gaps employees need to address to fill those future roles.

This data is used to build employee profiles and career maps so employees have autonomy over their careers with the organization. Through AI-backed talent management systems, employees are able to see what skills they need to develop to move further along their career paths. 

This future-casting is a win-win for employees and their employers alike because these insights also enable HR teams to identify employees within their own talent pools who would be a good fit for an open position.

One big challenge to the implementation of this approach to employee career movement (and thus employee retention) is the outdated mindset of managers.  

“One roadblock for many organizations is identifying internal opportunities and seeing the potential in their existing employees to succeed,” writes Jimmy Berg, enterprise account manager at Amazon Web Services. “Organizations have traditionally thought about career paths as hierarchical, based on technical proficiency and past performance instead of potential.”

Technology requires managers to think differently about talent mobility.

Finger about to press future button with blue light over black and grey background; talent intelligence and the public sector concept

Technology Pushes Hiring Managers to Change the Way They Think About Talent

Giving employees the power of movement requires hiring managers to forget the old way of thinking about movement. Instead of hanging on to outdated ideas such as requiring employees to get a manager’s permission to change roles or to serve in a certain role for a certain period of time, managers must change the way they think. 

It’s a new way of thinking that often makes managers uncomfortable. But it’s imperative to the success of such an approach to talent management that managers learn to think of talent through a different lens — one that focuses on creating opportunities for employees instead of pigeon-holing them into one role for the duration of their time with the organization. 

That flexibility in movement in their careers keeps employees “engaged, excited, and continually learning” which is key to retention, says Kirsten Wyatt, cofounder and executive director at the Oregon-based Engaging Local Government Leaders. That’s why it’s so important to get manager buy-in. 

Back view of businessman on rooftop managing people icons; talent intelligence and the public sector concept

Tech Tools Help Public Agencies Stay Competitive for Talent

Public agencies need every edge they can get in the talent marketplace. “Without a doubt, the public sector starts at a disadvantage and can now be in danger of lagging even farther behind the eight ball on recruiting,” writes Jennifer Marie Rocks, managing director at Deloitte Consulting. 

AI-backed technology can help public agencies stay competitive in the war for talent in a number of ways, including reducing the time to hire and broadening the talent pool of candidates.

Hire Quicker with Talent Intelligence

Public sector employers are known for taking a long time to bring on new employees. According to data gathered by the Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group, it takes the federal government about 98 days to onboard a new hire, which is more than double the time it takes a private sector employer.

“It can take six months to even get back to someone about a position,” says Liss-Levinson. “In today’s world, people don’t have that kind of time to wait.”

A shorter time to hire is critical for attracting high-quality candidates. As John Sullivan, professor of management at San Francisco State University, says, “in-demand candidates are the first to drop out or ghost in frustration.”

AI-powered tools enable hiring teams to move through the process to get employees onboarded more quickly. This keeps public agencies in the running for the top candidates.

Talent Management Technology Broadens Talent Pools for the Public Sector

Talent management tools create larger talent pools from which public sector employers can pull candidates to fill roles. Anyone with a profile in the system — current employees, alumni, external candidates that have applied, past applicants — can be pulled as a potential hire based on the skills and goals in their profiles. 

Again, this is a win-win for both employers and current employees. 

Employers increase their likelihood of finding the right person for the job with a broader talent pool. They can participate in more active hiring by recruiting from all of these different groups rather than passively waiting to see who applies for the position. Anyone in the system can be flagged for the role and approached by managers without actually having to apply for the position. This helps with employee retention. 

Retention is also improved when employees, in control of their career paths, can see an opportunity arise with the organization. A key part of career autonomy and movement is the chance to apply for those internal job openings. 

“If employees constantly see positions being filled externally, they may feel that they have no future at their organization and may lose motivation or resign for a better opportunity elsewhere,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management

Technology increases the visibility of job opportunities with the organization for those who are already employed by the company. Anybody can match their employee profile against the job description to see if they would be a good fit and then apply for the position. The technology also eliminates the need for employees to ask permission from managers to apply for different positions, which is a common barrier that keeps employees from advancing in an organization.

With more candidates applying, public sector employers are better able to hire top-quality talent who will follow a career path over the long term with the agency. That, along with the ability to provide employees with options for their futures, allows public agencies to address the talent crisis that continues to plague them.

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