Want to hire the best fed workers? Communicate strategically first

Friday - 6/7/2013, 2:48am EDT

Commentary By Eva Neumann
President and CEO, ENC Strategy

Photo courtesy of ENC

When hiring new workers, your first instinct may be to enlist the help of HR consultants. But often, doing a better job of raising awareness about what your organization has to offer and getting in front of potential candidates is a better and more cost-effective option.

Workforce recruitment challenges are really communication challenges.

Amid shrinking budgets, government agencies can't afford to spend a lot of time and resources finding employees. To keep up with the fast-paced, mission-critical work agencies do, they need to get the word out to top talent and hire them quickly.

But it doesn't take expensive HR consultants or lavish talent fairs to land the hires you need right now. Agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation recruit top talent through strategic communication by following these steps:

Step 1: Evaluate your current recruitment presence

  • Review publicly available documents (studies, reports, strategies, directives, news articles, etc.), as well as any existing communication plans and examples of prior/current efforts (including web, media, etc.). This review provides comprehensive knowledge of the operating environment, challenges and opportunities, as well as insights into which methods and approaches can achieve the most effective outcomes.

  • Determine what success will look like, and understand, prioritize and segment the target audiences and all stakeholders. Refine and validate measurement metrics accordingly.

  • Conduct interviews and research with target audiences.

Step 2: Create a recruitment communication plan for each significant audience segment

  • Potential employees of various skill sets, ages, cultural backgrounds and other variables consume information through a diverse set of channels and all have differing views on what a career means to them. Make sure your overall strategy and audience-specific tactics are customized to what you learn in the evaluation phase.

Step 3: Use innovative, proven communication methods

  • The following are effective, potential starting tactics for recruiting diverse, innovative thinkers and hard workers:

    • Program office information on search-engine optimized websites.
    • Online listings outside of USAJobs.gov on other popular sites frequented by audience segments. (Many of these are free!)
    • Sponsorship presence on sites that recruit diverse candidates, such as DiversityWorking.com.
    • Outreach to colleges and partnerships with student professional organizations, such as the National Black MBA Association.
    • Short, informative YouTube videos.
    • Social media advertising on Facebook and Twitter.
    • Compelling, creative collateral that beats the private sector with its visual appeal (but stays within agency brand standards).
    • Podcast interviews within the areas you're looking to hire. For instance, a podcast interview with an expert in contracting policy if you're looking for an acquisition professional.
    • Ensure Web content and job listings are in plain language and visually stand out.
    • Create digital human-interest stories on the importance of diversity within the agency by showcasing other successful individuals within the organization.
    • Establish an employee referral program.
No one communication strategy is right for every organization. Ignoring the first two steps because you think you know what will work, without any previous data, could be a recipe for disaster. Different messages are needed depending on the type of employee you seek.

Don't have a communication expert in your human capital organization? Find one within the agency or use an outside strategist to create messaging that will ring true for each audience segment, not fall flat because it's too general or go unseen because the deployment channels aren't specific enough.


Eva Neumann is the president and CEO of ENC Strategy. ENC offers communications planning, messaging, branding, social media, advertising, strategic consulting and Web services to government agencies, companies and associations. ENC is a woman- owned small business located in McLean, Va.