Recruiting Talent Takes Team Effort

ARTICLE | Mar 18, 2016

Small beginnings HUGE dedication

For over the last dozen years, CAL-ICMA and the City Managers Department of the League of California Cities have been engaged in a statewide initiative to prepare the next generation of public servants. They recognized that local government organizations needed to proactively address the significant wave of Boomer retirements. City and county managers across the state committed themselves to training tomorrow’s leaders. The primary focus has been twofold: 1) talent development for those already in the pipeline, and 2) attracting new talent, specifically Millennials, to choose local government as a career.

One step at a time

When thinking about how to scale this effort, our advice is to start small. CAL-ICMA started with the Coaching Program. This program was designed to accelerate learning on a wide range of relevant topics from working effectively with elected officials, managing social media, and public engagement, just to name a few.

We are excited that the Coaching Program has gone nationwide! These interactive webinars provide access to real-time learning from highly qualified managers, free of charge.

Partnerships expand the reach

Over time, we have expanded our partnerships with other key stakeholders such as the International Hispanic Network, Municipal Management Association of Northern California (MMANC), Municipal Management Association of Southern California (MMASC) and Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). These partnerships have helped recruit talent and promote the program.

Talent exchange celebrates 10 years

Senior managers in the Bay Area have been actively involved in the Next Generation of Silicon Valley Committee, led by Frank Benest, retired city manager of Palo Alto. One of the most popular programs that the Committee created is the Management Talent Exchange Program (MTEP), which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary!

This program is primarily focused on developing those in the pipeline by rising stars are placed in another agency for three months. For example, a fellow who works in an operational department such as police or public works would work in the city manager’s office. Or someone who works for a county will work for a city. This exposure provides these fellows with an opportunity to work on a special project (or several projects), to shadow executives, and to diversify their local government connections.

Job Shadow Day

The Next Generation of Silicon Valley Committee continually works to broaden the reach into local schools and colleges. To reach high school students, many of the Bay Area agencies offer a “Job Shadow Day,” which naturally falls on Ground Hog Day.  Students “shadow” department directors in the morning and wrap up their experience with a pizza lunch.

New informal programs on the rise

Some efforts are informal and organic. For example, recently ELGL and MMANC partnered to host an event targeted to undergrad and graduate students. This event titled, “Land your First Local Government Job,” was held at a restaurant near transit, during happy hour. ELGL and MMANC connected with the Next Generation of Silicon Valley Committee, who helped recruit local government executives. These executives were program speakers and walked students through the hiring process. This event had a nearly one-to-one ratio of students and executives and was free. We’re pleased to announce that from that event, a recently graduated masters student landed his first local government job!

Lessons learned

We believe many of these efforts are scalable and can be launched and supported with a team effort. Here are our lessons learned:

• It takes time to create - start small. Consider organizing a “speed coaching” at an upcoming conference by recruiting city/county manager volunteer coaches.

• Recognition and awareness was challenging – unless recruitment and retention is a priority for your city it can be a challenge to obtain and sustain support. 

• Champions are needed to constantly poke at peers to make sure this is a priority.

• It’s important to make sure that the continued efforts are sponsored at the state and regional level.

• Create committees – it helps to spread the workload, provide diversity, and prevent tunnel vision.

• We continue to see a hesitation of less seasoned staff asking managers to be their coach or mentor – it’s actually an honor to be asked and most who are fully committed would love to be asked.

Going forward

Going forward our ultimate challenge is with all managers at all levels in all departments embracing their changing role. Their roles must be redefined to include talent scout, career coach, and mentor. No matter where one falls in the organization, we all have a responsibility to foster the next generation of local government leaders.


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