Getting a diverse workforce takes creativity

Sep 28, 2015 | BLOG POST

In the session Building The Workforce of the Future, it became clear that creating a local government workforce that reflects the racial and ethnic composition of the community presents a significant challenge to local government managers.

As part of the greater London area, Lewisham, UK is 46% black and/or minority ethnic and Chief Executive Barry Quirk discussed an issue common across the panel. If you look at local government jobs as a whole, the workforce appears diverse but when breaking it down into segments illustrates that minorities and females are underrepresented in critical areas that matter—police and management for example. Quirk also pointed out that’s its important to look at contractors in the mix because citizens see those as people who work for local government.

Arun Sambataro who is King County Washington’s Equity and Social Justice Program Manager said that in her county diversity is very siloed. Of the 14,000 employees diversity is located in the lowest job categories and as you move up the pay scale diversity drops out. The county is integrating three initiatives to move to a more inclusive culture, they are:

  1. Equity and social justice
  2. Lean continuous improvement
  3. Employee engagement

One of the biggest issues confronting James Tolbert when he worked in Charlottesville, VA (he is now Assistant City Manager in Sandy Springs, GA) is the difficulty of finding qualified, diverse applicants. He challenged his audience to use a broader lens. He cited a number of examples of being willing to hire people—bartenders, a music hall manager, a single mom--who had the work ethic and interpersonal skills needed and could be taught a specific job skill. He said he also used internships as a way of getting diverse candidates in the door and then grooming them to move into managerial positions.

Once a diverse workforce is recruited, however, panelists agreed inclusiveness means making sure everyone has a voice and everyone can participate in strategizing and decision-making. It's one thing to recruit a diverse workforce, it's another to retain it.


ICMA Blog


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