In an NJMMA Fall Conference session, Ron Holifield, CEO of Strategic Government Resources, provided a roadmap for recruiting and retaining employees at every level.

The Great Resignation, COVID, political turmoil and a large number of Baby Boomer retirements have converged to make this the hardest time in history to recruit and retain employees at every level. “It can be tempting to just pull the covers over your head and wait for things to go back to normal, but ‘abnormal IS the new normal’,” Holifield explained.

Holifield described the brutal political environment in which both elected and appointed public servants currently serve. They are under constant attack, merely because they want to serve their communities and make them even better. As a result, it is increasingly difficult to get people to openly take on roles in local government. When you combine this with the large number of baby boomer managers retiring, there is a rapidly growing talent shortage for the municipal top spot. He suggested that towns need to accelerate the way they invest in leadership development in order to speed up the readiness of young professionals that can move through the pipeline.

Communities and organizations have life cycles, and need different leadership styles at different points to address their needs. If you are a steady systems builder and you go to an organization which needs a dramatic change agent, you will not thrive. This is the same situation if you are a dramatic change agent and you go to an organization that needs a steady hand to build systems.

Holifield advised newcomers to seek out managers they admire and want to emulate and spend quality time with them in their municipal setting. Many great municipal managers and administrators feel a deep desire to help raise up the next generation of local government management professionals and are willing to invest time in their development.