Is Public Sector Employment Tarnished?
The public sector has really been through the ringer lately and some are saying it’s only going to get tougher. Jennifer Schramm in the December 2013 issue of HR Magazine says there is a growing view among young job seekers that the fading security of public sector jobs is no longer a reasonable trade-off for pay packages that are generally lower than in equivalent private sector jobs.
If Schramm is right, how are we going to attract and retain the best talent to serve our communities? Is this an issue you’ve considered? I think about it a lot and it worries me.
Data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows job security to be a top factor in job satisfaction. Job security is also a draw for many who choose public service careers. With public sector retirement rates expected to explode in the coming years as Baby Boomers finally cash in on the pensions that have maintained their loyalty over time, I can’t help but wonder if we are heading into rough waters.
There will be government job openings in the future, that’s for sure. The question is: “Why would anyone want to work in the public sector?” Consider these forces that make the question even more compelling:
Changes to Public sector Pensions
Most states focused on trying to share the risk between employers and employees by raising the retirement age, ending cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), moving employees from defined-benefit to defined-contribution or hybrid plans, offering supplemental 401(k)-style plans, and asking employees to contribute more to their pension funds.
Shifts in Benefit Costs
I haven’t run across a public agency lately that hasn’t made major adjustments to their health insurance plans. Such changes usually include increasing the cost that employees pay toward premiums. Increased out of pocket costs, along with higher deductibles make the benefits packages of public employees not so rich.
Waning Job Security
While unemployment rates have begun to slowly dip, we are still seeing job losses in the public sector in certain areas of the country. While things may be starting to feel like “normal” in your area, the memory of large state and local government job losses between 2008 and 2011 linger in the minds of many. The great recessive taught us that a government job is no longer a “for life” gig.
Many economists predict that things are looking up for 2014. Public servants are settling back into the routine of serving their communities. Still, I can’t help but wonder what impact the strains of recent years have on the prospect of public sector employment. Has the shine of government employment been permanently tarnished? If so, how do managers make government employment attractive again, especially to those who we need the most? I’d love to hear your thoughts.