Poor image hurts public service recruitment

Governments facing an increasing shortage of workers, problem could become nightmare by 2010

The public service is facing an image problem as an employer, and is facing a significant challenge in recruiting talent to its ranks, according to a new study.

“One of the largest factors affecting public-sector recruitment is a poor image of government as an employer,” said Judith MacBride-King, director of human resources management and co-author of the Conference Board of Canada’s Building Tomorrow’s Public Service Today: Challenges and Solutions in Recruitment and Retention report. “This is not good news, particularly in light of the fact that the race for talent — especially high-end talent — across all sectors will escalate.”

Sixty-four per cent of all responding federal, provincial and municipal government organizations report shortages, and almost eight in 10 predict they will continue to be understaffed in the next three to five years. The skill shortages are particularly acute in professional, technical and scientific positions, but are also evident in management and senior leadership jobs.

The average age of government employees is 43.5 years. If current retirement trends continue in the public service, 44 per cent of today’s employees will be in a position to retire by 2010.

“The bulk of governments across Canada are going grey,” said MacBride-King. “What’s more, unless governments act quickly to deal with the impending shortfall of talent, they risk not having the staff they need to provide the quality of services Canadians rely on.”

The report calls for political and administrative leaders in the public service to devote time and effort to promote the public service. Governments should increase resources allotted to recruitment, adjust to changing demographics and workplace norms, reward performance and innovative work and develop leadership from within the ranks.

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