Why sectors are sourcing local government talent

Australian local government has developed a deep pool of talent and other sectors are realising they would be wise to draw from it.

Local government has a multi-skilled workforce consisting of professionals that are adept at providing a complex set of services to a diverse group of people.

A typical council delivers somewhere in excess of 80 services to its community, ranging from managing parks and recreation reserves to disability services and rubbish collection, to name just a few.

All of this is being done for a customer base which is local and can walk into reception and hold the organisation to account on these services.

As the level of government closest to the community, local government professionals quickly learn they need to listen to their community and plan services around their needs.

In recent years we have seen other sectors, particular public utilities like water, move towards a model which centres on the customer experience. This has led to the realisation that local government staff typically already have these valuable skill sets and experience to draw on.

In Victoria alone we have seen three managing directors and eight general managers, all hailing from local government, appointed to roles within the state’s water authorities in recent years.

We’ve also seen a general manager from the water sector appointed a council GM, showing the skills are transferable both ways.

For some years we have been encouraging clients in the water sector, among others, to consider candidates from local government because there is such a significant talent pool there.

When we take a brief for a CEO or GM role, the majority of clients are looking for the successful candidate to deliver on a number of key outcomes.

These include an engaged and productive workforce, financial sustainability, satisfied stakeholders, board and chair, and an active contribution to the leadership of the organisation. Organisations are also looking for someone who can deliver innovation and change.

Further, with much of the work in sectors like water evolving from science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, the workforce has been resolutely male dominated.

As the push for more diversity and gender balance continues many sectors are looking to local government, particularly for senior executive candidates, where campaigns for equality have existed for longer.

Sectors that are willing to dive into new talent pools with transferable skills are in prime position to benefit from this.

Jarrod McLauchlan is general manager Victoria with Davidson’s Executive & Boards.

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