Preparing for the impending talent loss

Facing a documented exodus of senior staff, Australian local government needs to prepare and develop its future leadership pipeline.

Earlier this month Government News reported that the local government workforce is older than the national labour force and a “large retirement wave” will affect the sector over the next decade.

Many local government leaders need to start planning ahead to be prepared to replace the exodus of Baby Boomers that will be retiring from the workforce.

There’s fierce competition for the best and the brightest talent that will be available and many local governments are already behind in their approach.

If this is not addressed sooner rather than later it could result in a massive loss of expertise that could put some councils behind for years to come.

Here are three approaches that local government could start with.

1. Start planning now

One of the challenges with many local governments is that they are currently busy trying to accomplish numerous tasks with overstretched budgets. This is on top of the shifting political landscape and the negotiation between national and state bodies that may have an impact. Unfortunately this means many local governments are not looking to the future and preparing for the impact of the staff that will be retiring.

Council leaders need to start planning for this future – it will be here before they know it. This can include a number of strategies that help prepare including interviewing staff who are close to retirement to discuss their timeframes and get them involved in the transition plan.

For many staff, this will allow them to be engaged in the handover to the next generation, and to be acknowledged for their expertise and commitment.

More importantly, this process enables council leaders to start identifying timeframes for when the current expertise will be leaving and provide timeframes to assist in the search for replacements.

2. Fast-track emerging leaders

Local government also needs to start developing an internal leadership pipeline.

This needs to capture the existing knowledge of senior staff and begin transferring it to the next generation.

Whenever an organisation faces an exodus of staff, some of the most promising future leaders choose to leave because they feel the transition period will be challenging and they won’t be considered for leadership roles.

This creates even more instability and results in the local government organisation taking longer to stabilise and become productive.

Internal leadership development programs need to involve practical strategies that emerging leaders can quickly integrate into their current roles to prepare them for the future.

They need to learn to delegate, coach, run effective meetings and mobilise staff.

Many effective leadership development programs also create a culture that encourages current talent to stay and contribute to a positive shift in the organisation.

3. Capture and promote thinking

All local governments have a reputation that reflects their current performance.  Some are seen as innovators – pushing the boundaries of what is possible, innovating and creating an empowering culture, while others are viewed with the broad brush of “typical ineffective council.”

To prepare for the transition councils need to start capturing the great ideas and activities that their staff are creating, and start sharing and publishing this outside the organisation.

Actively capture content and have it published across numerous platforms so the council is viewed as a leading thinker in the sector.

Platforms like LinkedIn can be used in this regard. It’s believed the average manager has 750 connections on LinkedIn, representing a huge potential candidate pool. By publishing posts outlining achievements and initiatives councils will attract talent and build their reputation as innovators and leaders.

The data is clear; there will be a shortage of experienced staff in the very near future in local government. Now is the time for councils to prepare and develop their future leadership pipeline.

Scott Stein is a leadership expert and author of Leadership Hacks: Clever shortcuts to boost your impact and results.

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