Rethink recruitment approach for digital talent, governments told

Governments need to use data analytics and social platforms to recruit digital talent, a report has said.

Governments ‘are on the back foot’ when it comes to recruiting digital talent – Photo credit: Flickr, Richard Rutter, CC BY 2.0

Talent Acquisition for the Government of the Future, published by EY and LinkedIn, said governments are “on the back foot in the race for needed talent” and that they would lose out to the private sector if they didn’t change their approach.

Digital is disrupting governments, the report said, and having people with the right skills and knowledge is essential if they are to make a success of the drive towards an open and e-government.

“The gaps in digitally savvy and young talent highlight a critical need for governments to attract an unprecedented amount of skill and experience from outside their organizations,” it said.

However, it added that competitiveness was a “roadblock” in recruiting the best digital talent, with government and the private sector competing for the same people.

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According to the report, the two most in-demand skills in 2016 were cloud and distributed computing and statistical analysis and data mining – the same as in the previous year.

Web architecture and development, meanwhile, rose six places to third place, with middleware and integration software skills and user interface design filling out the top five.

The report said that governments should make better use of data analytics so it could stay ahead of the demands for skills within government, which it said should be a collaborative effort between senior leadership and human resources.

This could include workforce assessments that identify gaps and threats, and then links this data to external market information to anticipate demand and plan for the future.

“Government and public sector organizations need to embed these new analytics in decision-making frameworks,” the report said. “The ability to connect market and economic information with internal strategy and projections, including through predictive analytics, provides a powerful platform for talent planning and for wider budget and resourcing decisions.”

The report also argued that, because “by and large, millennials possess the sought-after skills” governments should rethink their recruitment strategies based on the way that generation looks for work.

This includes making more use of social platforms to build up a brand and convey the message that government is a desirable place to work and make it more appealing to tech workers, who might be more used to entrepreneurial organisations.

The report also said this strategy could promote gender diversity by focusing on flexible working cultures and career options available in government.

‘Iterate recruitment methods’

Governments should also iterate their recruitment plans, which will require “solid investment in testing, measuring and refining strategies”, the report said, and track metrics in dashboards for both HR and departmental leaders.

In addition, the report called for an increased investment in training for staff at all levels, who should be playing an “proactive role in acquiring talent”, and investing more in the staff running recruitment programmes.

“The burning need for young, in-demand talent points to an elevated role for talent acquisition in government,” the report said. “Talent acquisition would become a strategic priority at the level of organizational leadership, giving it executive sponsorship, while ownership of strategy would sit with human resources.”

The report echoes comments made by a recruitment advisor for the Government Digital Service, who said earlier this year that traditional recruitment methods were not “proactive or productive enough” to attract the right candidates.

Ayton Hilton said that the government needed to increase specialist recruitment capability internally, and “be less reliant on generalists carrying out all parts of the process”.

He also called for more use of “contemporary methods and technologies”, such as social media aggregators and blogs, forums and events, as well as increased use of data in recruitment plans.

“It’s important that we harness technology to our advantage,” he said “The ultimate aim is that candidate and recruiter should be always be within easy reach of each other.”


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