Friday, December 15, 2006

Gallup poll yields lessons for employers

Results of a new Gallup poll illustrate strongly the disconnect between the perceptions of working for the federal government and what many candidates are looking for. And although the report focuses on implications for the federal government, there are lessons here for any organization.

The report, titled "Within Reach But Out of Synch" is based on data gathered online in September/October of 2006 and includes responses from 2,596 individuals.

Gallup broke out the respondents into three groups:

Generation Y : currently 18-29 year olds (born 1977-1988)

"Government-Go-Gets" (G3) : "scientists, engineers and computer science professionals and individuals who work in law, public policy and the social services", sectors considered by Gallup to be key prospects for the future federal workforce

Managers : individuals who currently hold managerial or supervisory positions in the private or nonprofit sector and could potentially transfer to the federal sector


There's quite a bit to chew on in the report, but I think this quote sums up the overall picture nicely: "the federal government must sharpen its competitive edge in terms of marketing and branding, and even more challenging, by offering high performing work environments that value innovation and creativity, and provide opportunities for growth and advancement."

I don't think this is a conclusion that is limited to the feds--this is a lesson for every organization hoping to lure high potential applicants.

Among Gen Y'ers, the workplace value ranked highest was growth potential, followed by intellectual stretch. For both managers and G3, compensation/benefits was ranked highest, followed by intellectual stretch. However, within G3 the results were more nuanced--for example, mission match was the most important for those in the social services. This speaks to the value of parsing out your target group(s).

Chart 3a (page 6) is probably the most eye opening. It illustrates dramatically how the private sector blows the feds away when it comes to perceptions of innovation and creativity, attracting the best and brightest, and providing a competitive environment. Where does the government win? In perceptions of benefits and job security. Surprisingly perceptions of pay were not overly one-sided, with 59% giving the nod to the private sector.

When it comes to job search, the vast majority of responders reported if they were going to look for a job with the feds they would turn to the agency's website. Job searching websites were also a popular choice.


Take-aways from the poll:

1. Organizations need to take their workforce planning data (you do have the data, right?) and figure out what aspects of their workplace they need to showcase and what they need to shore up in order to attract candidates for their target jobs.

2. Intellectual stretch was rated highly by all three candidate categories. This means things like being intellectually stimulated, being able to use your education, and allowing you to be innovative and creative. What is your organization doing to allow your employees opportunities to do these things?

3. For the feds (and government in general, I would bet), this is a wake-up call to think seriously about how they are perceived. Is there some truth to these perceptions? If not, put some serious effort into marketing (and, if needed, brand identification). If there is, focus on how workplaces can be more supportive of creativity and innovation, and how you can spread the word about merit-based hiring practices and the wonderful folk you have on staff.

4. For the love of Pete, make sure your careers website makes for a good candidate experience. The Army's webpage is frequently cited as being one of the best.

Poor OPM

Ya gotta feel for OPM after looking at this report. Of all the federal agencies polled about, OPM scored lowest on both "awareness of agency mission" (24%) and "interesting place to work" (1.92%). Undoubtedly this is due in part to its relatively small size and somewhat nebulous mission. If it's any consolation, OPMers, I think you do great work !

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