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Recruit Top Talent With a Great Employee Experience

By Jessica Nikunen

Organizational success is a function of the people you employ and how engaged they are in your organization. So, how can you find and keep the top talent that your city needs?

By taking a holistic approach to employees’ physical, emotional, career, and financial well-being, you can make the most of compensation and benefits and maximize the potential of talent to help reach your city’s goals. Many cities start by looking at the job market when searching for the best candidates. But it’s equally important to observe what your employees experience in the workplace.

Employees want to:

  • Know what’s expected of them.
  • Understand how their work is valuable to the organization.
  • Be rewarded for their work.
  • Work for an organization that supports them both professionally and personally.

Let’s look at some ways your city can strengthen its employee experience.

Job descriptions and employee performance

Cities should clearly define employee roles, set goals, and manage performance and job descriptions as the foundation of a good employee experience. However, as technology and resident expectations evolve, so do job duties. Therefore, job descriptions and classification systems must be reviewed and adjusted as often as necessary.

Successful organizations earn employees’ trust and engagement by clearly communicating how performance is measured. Managers should regularly meet with their team members to be better informed about employee needs and how to support career well-being.

Supporting career well-being becomes even more crucial in a strong labor market, where employees know their value and have the confidence to move to another organization.

Balanced rewards and communication

Cities should review compensation structures regularly to ensure both internal equity and market competitiveness. As your workforce changes, consider surveying employees to better understand what rewards they value.

According to MetLife’s Employee Benefit Trends Study — Public Sector, a survey of public-sector employees published in 2018, retirement benefits are the top reason employees are drawn to and stay at their jobs, with career development and training also in the top five.

The types of benefits offered by cities have changed within the past few years as a result of surveying employees. With many cities spending over 50% of their budgets on wages and benefits, it’s important to ensure you are spending tax dollars where they are most likely to improve the employee experience.

While some employees may perceive that public-sector compensation and benefits have decreased from 20 years ago, that perception can improve with clear communication. More cities are considering providing total rewards statements to employees as part of a concerted communication campaign.

Strong workplace culture

The employee experience is a solid indicator of the strength of the workplace culture, which is key for both attracting and retaining top talent. Candidates should be easily able to find information about your city’s employee experience through various social networks, word of mouth, and even newspaper articles about council actions.

According to Part One of The Talent Forecast, a 2017 survey by the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry, the No. 1 reason candidates chose one job over another was company culture (23%), followed by career progression (22%) and benefits (19%).

It’s important to monitor engagement and regularly check in with employees to get insights about how to enrich organizational well-being. Major changes are not always immediately feasible, but you can focus on incremental improvements.

Many candidates today want their work to make a difference in the world. One unique advantage cities have is the ability to connect daily work with positively impacting the community.

City leaders should share the vision of the community’s strategic plan, articulate how each employee has a role in realizing that vision, and empower employees with the tools they need for individual and organizational success.

Why the employee experience matters

Intentional focus on components of the employee experience — including job descriptions, performance management, rewards, communication, and workplace culture — allows cities to attract and retain top talent. Cities that understand this as true business management as opposed to “HR fluff” are best equipped to meet the expectations of employees. By reducing turnover and related costs and increasing productivity, cities can truly foster the organizational well-being required to effectively serve their communities.

Jessica Nikunen is senior consultant, Benefits and HR Consulting Division, at Gallagher ( Gallagher is a member of the League’s Business Leadership Council (