The last few years have proven difficult for the public sector. Falling public employment has been among the largest contributors to lingering unemployment in the United States since the end of the 2008 recession.
Tight budgets have forced a number of difficult decisions on policymakers and nonprofit leaders who have been forced to lay off public service workers in order to meet their monetary constraints. Although salaries often trailed the private sector, in the past the public service sector was able to attract talented employees with the promises of job stability, great benefits, and opportunities for advancement.
Recently, a study titled, the “Inspiring Excellence in the Future of Public Service” from The Centre for Organization Effectiveness, was conducted in alliance with UC San Diego Extension to uncover what brought people into the public sector in the first place and what’s changed in the landscape of serving the public.
This is the sector broadly defined as government (all levels), nonprofits, non-government organizations (NGOs), international development and education. More than 200 individual interviews and focus groups were conducted within more than 30 organizations representing state, county, and city agencies as well as municipalities and universities throughout California. Participants in the study ranged from graduate students to seasoned and retired public sector employees at all levels.
The Centre for Organization Effectiveness study reports that despite the economic challenges, workers are still attracted to public service. But, because job security and stability are not the draw they once were, study participants believe future public service employees will choose the field for other reasons.
For years, employees joined public service to make a difference and improve communities and in turn received job stability and benefits. A new generation of recent and mid-level college graduates are still choosing careers in public service because of a desire to do public good even though much of that job stability is diminishing.
The report noted there is a sense of idealism and a strong desire to contribute something significant and make an impact. Many public sector employees work in fields where they provide health care, maintain state and local infrastructure, provide protective services, and help educate the next generation of workers.
The majority of participants chose the public service career path because they felt compelled to serve people, their communities, and those in need of representation. Those drawn to public service were motivated by an overwhelming need to give back, to work for the greater good, and to make a difference with the work they do.
For a recap of the research, visit http://tcfoe.com/pdf/ResearchSummaryFinal.pdf.