From the Editor
Forecasting 2024: Picking Up Where 2023 Left Off
2023’s final issue of Public Eye looked back at the year that just was—the trends and developments that shaped public sector HR over the past 12 months.
Sizing up the year ahead wasn’t necessarily the overarching goal with this, the first Public Eye issue of 2024. But the content we find in this edition does suggest that many of these same trends and developments will be front and center in 2024—the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace and contending with recruitment and retention challenges, for instance.
PSHRA President Mark Van Bruggen touches on these and other hot topics in a Q&A we conducted for this issue’s “Talent, Technology and Telework” feature. In this piece, Van Bruggen shared some thoughts on what he sees as the most pressing issues that await him and his public sector HR peers in 2024, including a heated competition for talent.
“With low unemployment comes greater demand for talent, so in these times, job candidates and current employees have the leverage over employers,” said Van Bruggen, HR consultant to the chief of staff with the New Jersey Civil Service Commission (NJCSC).
“In New Jersey, the state government not only competes for talent with the private sector, but we also compete for talent within the government itself. In many cases, departments are pitted against departments and agencies are pitted against agencies for the same talent. It’s really not helping anyone when talent is robbed from Peter to pay Paul.”
Van Bruggen also offered some insight into how the public sector can level the playing field in the talent battle.
“The public sector may not be able to compete with the private sector when it comes to employment perks such as working from home, onsite day care, great cafeterias and ‘nap pods.’ But being a public servant is a noble profession. Those of us in the public sector have the benefit of working for the greater good of society,” he said.
“We serve the underprivileged, the infirmed, the abused and the destitute. We respond to fires, terrorist attacks and catastrophes. We build infrastructure and enforce programs for the good of the environment. We teach and protect children. To compete with the bells, whistles and higher salaries of the private sector, I think we just need to emphasize the importance of public service better than we currently do.”
Some of the data we highlight in this issue’s “Making the Connection: Early Career Outreach Pays Off for the Public Sector” suggests that public sector employers are working hard to highlight all that public service has to offer, and that work is reaping dividends, especially with younger talent.
One analysis conducted by online job platform Handshake, for instance, finds the site’s job postings from federal employers have increased by 22% in the past year, with total applications to federal employers more than doubling in that same span.
And, a 2023 MissionSquare Research Institute report finds the young professionals who have chosen the public sector path have had a positive experience so far.
The survey polled 1,004 state and local government employees aged 35 and under, finding that a majority of public service employees (64%) generally hold a positive view of their jobs, expressing satisfaction with their job security, community service and the quality of their colleagues. Nearly half of the young workers surveyed (48%) said they’re likely to recommend a public service career to friends and family, and 46% said they plan to stay in public service until retirement.
Discussing these findings with Public Eye upon the report’s release, Rivka Liss-Levinson, MissionSquare Research Institute senior research manager, touched on what early-career workers are seeking when they pursue government work. And, as Van Bruggen did elsewhere in this issue, Liss-Levinson stressed some of the ways in which public sector careers can help them fulfill their professional goals.
“Younger state and local government workers as a group tend to be mission-driven, with many having initially chosen a job in public service in order to make a meaningful impact,” Liss-Levinson said. “This public service motivation, combined with benefits to working in state and local government, such as job stability and the ability to serve one’s community, make public service a desirable career choice for many younger individuals.”