By Susan Fallon Brown
Byline Originally Posted on Government Executive
April 18, 2019
When it comes to recruiting top talent, federal agencies may have a hard time competing with the private sector on compensation and efficiency of the hiring process, but most have one great advantage: mission. Government employees are scientists, investigators, analysts, and attorneys. They’re researchers trying to cure cancer; engineers working to launch rockets to Mars; cybersecurity specialists fighting digital threats, and medical professionals providing services to veterans.
In a world where people want to feel as if they’re contributing to a greater cause, there’s no better place to look for mission-driven work than a government agency. Job seekers of all ages place higher value on an organization’s mission than other factors—42% of federal employees indicated in a recent survey. And good news for the government trying to attract younger workers: nearly half of millennials say they want to work for an employer because of its mission-driven work.
However, this means nothing if federal agencies don’t take the right steps to brand their agency and showcase their mission in a way that stands out to job candidates. Government employees tackle some of society’s most critical problems, and a job that makes a difference and impacts lives can be incredibly attractive, particularly among younger talent.
How do you go about leveraging agency brand and mission? Here are a few steps to get you started.
Tell Your Story
Put yourself in a candidate’s shoes. Google your agency and see what they see. Does your website content match your elevator speech? Is what you're saying on social channels accurate? Are news articles largely positive? Are you telling the story of who you are as an agency? It’s important to remember that candidates are going beyond just your agency website in their research—in fact millennials use an average of two social media platforms or review sites before deciding to apply for a job.
Consider your agency’s reputation from other sources. If you’re not viewing it from the perspective of a candidate, it’s nearly impossible to understand the reputational challenges you may be facing and how to adjust accordingly.
Go Where the Talent Is
With a better understanding of how your candidates see your agency’s brand, it’s time to deploy your messaging across various channels and platforms. But first, go back to doing the research. Now that you know how job seekers perceive you, you need to figure out where they see you.
Having a great mission will do you no good if your potential employees can't even find it. Obviously, social media is pertinent to this—79% of job seekers are using social media when conducting their job searches. What works for one agency—or even a specific job position within an agency—may not always be the same for another. It’s important to try new tactics and pivot if something isn’t working well. Don’t forget about different ways to reach potential candidates, including creating targeted digital campaigns, attending job fairs and universities, or even utilizing video. With this information, deploy your messaging accordingly, but be sure to connect with your office of public affairs team to ensure that your external messaging on all channels is consistent with the job description.
Remember Your Biggest Assets
Don’t get so caught up in the external factors that you forget to leverage your greatest asset in the hiring process: your current employees. Focus on bringing humanity back into the job search. After all, your agency is a direct reflection of the people who work there.
As with any organization, employees can be your biggest advocates or critics, so it’s important to nurture those relationships. Retaining and recruiting are more closely aligned than you might think. Make sure that your current employees feel valued and that your agency provides a culture they want to be a part of. Take the results of your Federal Employee Viewpoints Survey seriously. The responses can be huge indicators of what you’re doing well, or where improvements need to be made.
Many federal employees are fiercely loyal to their agency. Talk to your top-performers and make them your agency ambassadors, whether that’s online, in videos, or through written content. Testimonials remain the most powerful form of a brand, and at the end of the day, a brand is nothing if not great storytelling. In fact, data show that employee referrals resulted in more than 30% of all hires overall in 2016 and 45% of internal hires.
Use your mission, leverage your current employees, and tell your agency’s story. You’ll be amazed at the kind of talent you attract when you do.
Susan Fallon Brown is vice president for Global Strategy and Business Development at Monster Government Solutions.