With economic uncertainty and federal public servants strikes looming, the government sector has its share of hurdles to manage its workforce and recruitment efforts. Even before the current labour actions, the COVID-19 pandemic changed and continues to change how we work – and even how we retire. During peak pandemic, many Canadians shifted their planning, with 23% opting to delay their or their spouse’s retirement. However, as pandemic-related restrictions lifted and more people sought  a better work-life balance, many industries saw a retiree rush. Many of those “excess retirements” impact key government sectors, including education and social assistance, and HR teams are scrambling. 

While this mass retirement exodus opened up government jobs in all niches and levels – net sector jobs increased by 9.4% between February 2020 and July 2022 – it’s also leaving a significant backfill. This paired with ongoing challenges to engage modern, diverse job seekers, and it’s clear that HR and talent acquisition leaders need to reimagine how they recruit, engage and retain government workers. Here’s what to consider if you’re hiring in this space, plus targeted strategies to build out a successful workforce. 

The state of the market – and what job seekers want right now 

More Canadians than ever started retiring, including a record number of workers aged 55-64. While that’s leaving significant opportunities for job seekers, these incomparable vacancy levels could threaten ongoing economic growth. Losing these skilled workers can potentially drive salaries up and productivity down. Plus, there are considerable costs at the organizational level: open headcounts mean stress on existing employees, which can lead to burnout and turnover, deepening recruiting challenges even further. 

Successful recruitment teams recognize these complex challenges. Many are approaching backfilling tasks with a two-prong approach: modernizing the notoriously slow hiring process that permeates many industries (especially the public sector), while seeking broader candidate pools to accelerate hiring and better align with worker expectations. For many HR leaders, that means taking a step back, assessing what today’s job seekers and government workers want, and finding new ways to meet them where they are. 

Identifying competitive advantages and job seeker priorities 

Job seekers are well-aligned around employer expectations – specifically, they want higher pay and better benefits. If a large-scale pay increase isn’t doable, consider focusing on the #2 job seeker demand: added benefits. Twenty percent of job seekers say benefits are a driving factor behind the search – and benefits don’t always need to come with a hefty price tag (for example flexibility around work hours or location can be very attractive without too much negative affect on the bottom line). 

Late last year, Indeed commissioned a global market research in five countries to understand what workers were looking for and confirmed they prioritize a complete compensation package, including benefits, as well as flexibility and freedom. 

Integrating  benefits with dual purposes 

To maximize efficiency and impact, organizations should focus on benefits that serve a dual purpose: attracting modern job seekers and retaining existing talent. This approach not only helps support the retirement-driven backfill but also helps mitigate general turnover: nine in 10 government workers say they’re considering a career move.1 A top reason for exiting? Lack of workplace training and advancement opportunities.

By integrating on-the-job training, certifications, and other professional development opportunities, government organizations will be more likely to attract talent and keep them seated.2

Another key benefit that satisfies multiple right-now needs: diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) benefits, which have become increasingly more widespread (including employee resource groups, diversity training, and mentoring programs), and can be managed and scaled based on budgets, timing, and existing access. 

DEI benefits help support employees, improving workplace satisfaction and long-term retention, but promoting these initiatives may also solve some backfill hurdles. Nearly 90% of Canadian job seekers say diversity is a high priority when evaluating potential employers. Integrating these strategic benefits, then, can have a significant impact from end-to-end – from engaging and recruiting talent to retaining existing workers.  

Reducing the need for contract workers and consultants 

Emphasizing meaningful benefits not only organically engages and attracts modern talent but these programs also have the potential to connect with Canada’s fast-growing immigrant population. With an eye on filling the labour gap and offsetting waves of retirements, Canada is set to welcome 1.45 million more immigrants by 2025. 

By promoting DEI benefits, government organizations may better attract and recruit these fast-growing talent pools while naturally boosting diversity and the benefits that come with it – enhanced creativity and innovation, stronger employer branding, improved productivity, and lower turnover, for starters. Additionally, once diverse talent joins the team, they’ll be immediately supported by these existing benefits.   

Modernizing the government hiring process

With these considerations and employee-first offerings in place, the final step is to spread the word, leveraging platforms and best practices that meet job seekers where they are. 

Modern workers are empowered by technology – more so, even during the pandemic, when teams were pushed to rapidly adopt new tech-enabled workflows and processes. Focus on targeted digital promotions to get the word out about your open positions. 

And to ensure talent joins the team and stays? Today’s workforce craves happiness and wellbeing in the office and out. By leaning into Indeed’s Workplace Wellbeing Score and the feedback that emerges, organizations and HR leaders can better understand what it takes to help employees thrive – and what they can do to optimize happiness, wellbeing, and success. 

The labour market has undergone – and continues to experience – seismic shifts as employees seek to carve out a lifestyle that satisfies them, personally and professionally. From pursuing meaningful flexibility and enhanced benefits to finding employers that best align with their values and, in some instances, stepping out of the workforce entirely, retiring, or joining the “gig economy,” Canadian workers are reimagining their careers from the top down. By supporting this massive reprioritization, employers (especially in the governmental sector) can overcome talent shortages, large-scale backfills, and overall turnover, future-proofing their organizations for all that comes next. 

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

 2 Source: « Understanding job seeking behaviour in UK, US, Canada & France » commissioned research by Curious Industries for Indeed, June 2022.