In the current tough-to-hire environment, we’ve become increasingly aware of the importance of a strong entity-wide state government data infrastructure for recruiting and hiring in the public sector workforce.
As we described in our column in Route Fifty last week, in the past, the leaders in Missouri weren't paying much attention to that notion. Fortunately, things have changed. Here's the story:
Back in 2019, the state’s agencies, and even smaller units within those agencies, each approached hiring and recruiting in their own way. “When I started in July 2019, each department did their own thing. Some had online applications and some were on paper,” says Dawn Sweazea, Missouri’s Statewide Director of Recruitment.
At the time, many of the participants of this decentralized system did not even track their hiring speed -- how long it took them to fill positions. Others used different definitions of “time to fill” that meant the resulting data was inconsistent and not useful for cross agency comparison. For example, some units considered the start of the hiring process when positions became vacant. Others started the clock when the posting was announced.
As part of the transformation process, the central personnel office solicited input from 16 departments about the elements that needed to go into a single state application. A crucial step was agreeing on how the measurement of “Time to Fill” was defined.
As Sweazea describes it, the shift to a single application system for the state was a “game changer.” It means “we can offer a consistent system to our candidates. I’m so thankful that we were able to put this in place before Covid,” she says.
That consistent system greatly benefits state HR managers, who now have a single set of data that can be used to compare departments, which vary substantially in the amount of time it takes to fill positions. In 2021, for example, the Missouri Department of Revenue had the best "time to fill" of 35 days. That compares to departments at the other end of the spectrum, which averaged more than 100 days.
As we pointed out in our Route Fifty column, with its consistent data set, Missouri has been able to begin whittling down the time it takes to fill positions, moving from a 65-day average for the state in 2020 to 58 days in 2021. Its current target is 45 days, one of the benchmark figures used by the Society for Human Resource Management. To get to that goal, state leaders are looking at the practices of departments that do better at hiring speed – for example by scheduling interviews throughout the process, and setting up texting with applicants.
Missouri supplements the data it collects on its hiring process with applicant surveys. Through this ongoing contact, it learned about some technological bumps that occurred when a candidate’s interest in several state jobs led to multiple attachments to the single application. “The feedback was that multiple attachments were hard to do,” says Sweazea. “Our developers have looked at that to make sure the technology runs smoothly.”
Missouri managers also learned the importance of letting applicants know what happened to their application. The central personnel division cannot compel agencies to send a final communication, but they recommend this as a best practice, and they have made it easier by automating responses that agencies can use for different circumstances. “People want to hear a final answer,” Says Sweazea. “We have built the technology to make that final email communications super easy.”
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