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Six Workforce Trends to Watch in 2021 as Governments Strive to Attract & Retain Talented State & Local Employees

Center for state and local government excellence identifies six workforce trends to watch in 2021

Published on January 01, 2021

As a unique and challenging 2020 concludes, there is a great deal to learn regarding what is needed to develop and manage an effective, high-quality, and diverse state and local government workforce.

Recent research by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) reveals key challenges and opportunities facing states and localities in the year ahead. This research offers insights into what strategies and tactics to monitor as governments of all sizes strive to attract and retain talented state and local employees.

SLGE offers the following six trends to watch in 2021.

  1. Embracing a holistic approach to employee well-being: Public employers will embrace a holistic approach to employee well-being through expanded financial wellness programs, increasing their understanding of employee benefit preferences, and evaluating the impact of structural change to retirement benefits on retirement security.
  2. Strengthening the post-COVID-19 workplace: The public sector will continue to work to address the impact of COVID-19 on employers and employees and identify a balance between remote work environments and more traditional approaches for a wider range of positions, while expanding the use of flexible work practices more generally.
  3. Implementing innovative staffing practices and collaborative approaches: Budget challenges and increased service demands will incentivize state and local governments to assess current staffing levels, project future needs, expand the use of innovative staffing practices, and collaborate with other organizations.
  4. Focusing on financial wellness: Given the impact the pandemic has had on individuals’ personal finances, employee financial education programs will be expanded to cover more topics, leveraging enhanced communications methods, while evolving to more specifically meet the needs of more employees.
  5. Expanding workforce management tools: The comprehensiveness and fiscal sustainability of public retirement plans will continue to be a central focus for these workforce management tools, while new approaches for providing benefits, including retiree health care, will be explored.
  6. Developing a diverse and inclusive workforce: As public sector employers work to attract and retain a talented workforce of the future, they will look to ensure that their workforce is diverse, inclusive, and more reflective of the populations they serve, taking into account the disproportionate health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic groups.

SLGE extends its gratitude to the dedicated and passionate professionals who make up the state and local government workforce. Their continued service to the public during this difficult year is deeply appreciated, and SLGE wishes a happy, healthy and safe new year to state and local workers and their families.

SLGE also appreciates ICMA-RC for its generous support of many of the 2020 research products, as well as the support of SLGE’s additional 2020 partners and sponsors. SLGE has been fortunate to work with a wide range of organizations over the years to achieve its mission of Promoting State & Local Government Excellence to Attract and Retain Talented Public Servants.

Associate Writer