Government workers are on the move. Nearly nine in 10 Canadian government employees are considering leaving their current job for higher wages, better benefits, increased diversity, and greater day-to-day balance.1 The way we work changed dramatically in the last few years. From an emerging recession and globalization to a mass workforce reshuffling, workers are now reimagining their unique career journeys and all sectors, including the public sector, need to adjust. 

For HR and talent acquisition leaders, these shifts have led to reimagining their core processes and workflows. Within a talent-first market, job seekers are redefining what a “great opportunity” looks like, as organizations work to meet potential and existing employees where they are. In many cases, this means offering greater flexibility, higher pay, better benefits, and opportunities to upskill. 

It also means expanding your talent pool and how you position your organization to support that extended reach. By aligning your employer branding for five high-potential diversity groups – people with disabilities, indigenous employees, women, members of visible minorities, and students – you’ll have an even deeper audience of workers to engage with and recruit. And in focusing on broader talent pools, you’ll have the added benefits of hiring diverse teams – increased creativity and innovation, better problem-solving, reduced turnover, and a stronger internal and external reputation, among other competitive advantages. 

Identifying high-potential talent pools

In a study conducted last year, Indeed found I that a majority of government employees were considering leaving which, paired with record-breaking retirement rates and ongoing labour shortages, pushes HR leaders to find new recruitment strategies Leading Canadian organizations, especially within the Government, are finding those hires in key diverse talent pools: 

#1. People with disabilities 

Even the most inclusive hiring practices overlookCanadians with disabilities. Employees with disabilities have a 72% higher retention rate, increased attendance rates, and are tied to three-times faster growth than competitive organizations. 

#2. Indigenous employees

Five percent of the Canadian population identifies as indigenous, presenting a significant talent pool for government agencies and employers. However, these groups historically have lower-than-average employment rates – among those not living on a reserve, rates continue to hover at sub-60% levels

According to Chevon Wells LaForme, of the Info-Tech Research Group’s — herself descending from Anishinaabe-Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and Kanyen’kehà:ka, and Six Nations of the Grand River – engaging with indigenous talent requires cultural competency, humility, and an understanding of the differences that may arise during screening and interviews processes. 

LaForme explains that understanding of cultural differences can help identify problematic processes. She gives, as an example, the contradiction of expecting an indigenous candidate to “sell themselves” in an interview when humility is such a core indigenous value. 

Once you’ve hired from these talent pools, it’s essential to be culturally accommodating and focus on supporting this dynamic workforce. Again, competency training, emphasizing knowledge and experience of local cultures and languages, and integrating indigenous leaders can help ensure smooth transitions and meaningful retention. Government organizations typically have a unique need to engage and activate local communities and residents. Representation and understanding can help bridge gaps and build connections, benefitting all sides. 

#3. Women in the government sector 

While women make up more than half of federal public sector roles, there’s still a significant gender pay gap. More than 54 million women left the global workforce following the pandemic. Some opted out, and many pushed to leave their jobs because of mounting family obligations – remote school, caring for children and aging parents, and, in some instances, needing extreme caution because of their own or a loved one living with a compromised immune system. Others were let go. Studies have shown that working Canadian women were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19

Now, government organizations can re-engage this sizable talent pool, bringing women back into the workforce and engaging active employees looking for new opportunities. The key is understanding what they want, which includes: 

  • Flexibility in when and where they work 

Flexible work schedules increase the probability of inclusion for female workers. 

  • Career development opportunities 

Opportunities to start or continue professional development increases the probability of “great work” by 85%. 

  • Support resources 

Having on-hand support resources increases the probability of female employee engagement by 215%. 

  • Leadership diversity 

When 50% of senior leadership is female, engagement soars by 1,607% and inclusion by 803%.

Focus on these perks – and on promoting them through your job postings,  your employer branding, your organization’s social media feeds, and other publicly owned platforms – to ensure female talent understands your commitment to their success. 

#4. Members of visible minority groups 

Ethnically-diverse hiring isn’t just good business; it’s good for business – and with Canada’s massive population growth powered by immigrants, these workers could represent a tremendous competitive advantage over the next decade. 

Not only do Canadian organizations have access to this fast-growing hiring pool but the benefits of promoting a culturally- and ethnically-diverse workforce are clear: diverse teams tend to outperform their homogenous counterparts in a host of financial, productivity, quality, and engagement KPIs. Plus, having multilingual workers can provide an added advantage if your organization operates internationally. 

#5. Students (AKA future employees)

While they may be years from rolling up their sleeves and diving into your full-time workforce, keeping an active bench of future employees starts by engaging and integrating students into your recruitment strategies. Internship and externship programs enable government organizations to evaluate prospective future workers in a “real-life” setting. 

In allowing potential hires to learn and engage in a live environment, both sides can determine future potential while beginning to train students on the ins and outs of a specific employer. It can help lessen learning curves and create a powerful funnel for future recruitment.

Engaging and activating key employment groups 

By tapping into these employment groups, Canadian government agencies can help backfill open roles as Baby Boomers exit the workforce while curbing headcounts vacated by global labour shortages. The key is expanding your talent pool, then committing to supporting their journeys and candidates within your organization.

First, it’s essential to reimagine recruitment processes – it’s all about meeting talent where they are: business associations, university and alumnae clubs, meetups, and local groups are ideal for engaging and recruiting talent. Likewise, scheduling hiring events in target locations can help drum up broader interest among the community and relevant job seekers. 

In promoting these events and engaging clubs, associations, and business groups, spreading your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) messaging is equally important. Not only do the overwhelming majority of job seekers want to work in a diverse environment, but showing cultural competencies, in-house support, and commitment to DEI encourages diverse employees to engage and apply for open roles. Government agencies are already very committed to diversity but they need to show that commitment is more than talk to see increased engagement, productivity, and retention. 
Lastly, using powerful tools to recruit from these pools and being clear and supportive throughout the candidate experience will build a solid base for a successful employee experience that will lead to more easily retain those workers long-term.

1. Source: “Understanding job seeking behaviour in UK, US, Canada & France” commissioned research by Curious Industries for Indeed, June 2022.