I am in the unique position of getting to rebuild Brighton’s Budget & Performance Team from scratch. Due to a recent move by one employee and my other employee trailblazing a new sustainability position for the City, I have found myself entering the holidays as a one-woman show. For those of you who have ever done budget, you’ll know the final months of the year are pretty busy. You’ve got the budget adoption, building the budget book, filing official docs, and applying for the GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award all knocking simultaneously on your door. This is a time when a total team reset might make you want to curl up under your desk because the sky is clearly falling. For me, however, it’s an opportunity.
I was lucky the last few years to have an amazing superstar team. They helped me launch our Performance and Leadership Academy, move the City into its first biennial budget, revamp our strategic planning process and so much more. I have also been engaged in long-term team succession conversations with our City Manager as I look forward to the next steps in my career. Essentially, my approach to rebuilding my team is going to have long-term implications for the City. As such, I needed to develop a recruitment and onboarding plan that would position us for success. In today’s Morning Buzz, I thought I’d share the key steps I followed, and which draw from best practices and experience, in the hopes they might assist you as you grapple with transition in your teams.
- Conduct a needs assessment: My first action upon realizing that I was looking at an entirely new team was to complete an environmental assessment. I took stock of what projects and programs were already in play and where we expected to go in the next few years. It was key to understand my team’s needs before I could start to imagine the candidate that would be successful in filling the gaps. We clearly have significant budget and data components to our work so a strong candidate needs to be comfortable in Excel and running analysis, lest they be miserable. Less obvious is that all of our programs rely on positive relationships built with departments and the community, so a successful candidate also needs to be comfortable nurturing and leveraging these more social aspects.
- Set priorities: Too often organizations seek the ideal candidate who also happens to be a Nobel Prize-winning rocket scientist, heart surgeon, and holds a doctorate in parks maintenance. It is overwhelming for candidates and also has serious impacts on who applies. Research shows that women feel they must meet nearly all the requirements of a position before they will apply while men generally only need to identify with half the requirements before they feel qualified. This means a laundry list of requirements can immediately cut your candidate pool in half. Once I conducted my needs assessment, it was important for me to go through that list and lay out what items were truly requirements and what items could be taught. Since my positions can be posted at multiple levels (I/II/Senior) I took this a step further by identifying how this changed for each level and what levels I would seek in my recruitment. Since succession planning was a unique challenge in this posting I identified that I would run two separate postings. The first would seek a II or senior level analyst with requirements for budget experience and an interest in one day seeking a Budget Manager position. This was the priority position to fill and was posted first. The second position will be posted in the new year for a more entry-level analyst with a simple interest in municipal budgeting and performance that could grow with the organization over time and provide continuity.
- Map your hiring process: Government is known for being slow, particularly when it comes to filling a position. Amazon interviews in the morning and makes an offer the same day. Now, we aren’t quite Amazon, but we knew in this competitive market that we also could not take two months to make an offer. To facilitate speedier recruitment, we worked with our HR to set parameters for early application review and ranked as applications came in. We also set aside interview times for our panel up front so we would not be struggling to find availability. Any step from questions to template offer documents that could be done upfront was completed early. With all this up-front work we were able to have a conditional offer out within a week of closing the posting.
- Develop a winning onboarding strategy: It can be tempting to hire someone and let them loose under the guise of empowerment, but there is a line between neglect and trusting someone. Studies have found that most employees determine whether they will stick with an organization in their first six months and that a poor orientation and onboarding process plays a significant role in that decision. For my team, I always try to prepare a first-day, first-week, first-month, and one-year plan for setting them up for success. My first-day plan balances the necessary paperwork and training with fun ways to introduce the employee to the team and the community. It’s a mixture of training, meet and greets, lunch, and touring points of interest. I also make sure to communicate the first-day plan at least a week ahead to the candidate so they are not stressing about what to expect. The first-week plan builds in plenty of check-ins and key information for success, while the one-month plan ramps up projects and responsibilities in a manageable fashion. At that one-month mark I sit down with the new employee and we work together to develop their one-year plan including projects to expect, the experience they want to gain, and professional development goals. This helps to make sure we are investing as much in their success as they are in the City’s success. I schedule check-ins every six months on these plans to ensure the employee is meeting goals and adjust as needed.
My overall experience with this approach has been positive with employees building solid foundations and connecting early with their work. It also helps me to identify potential pain points early and engage my employees in developing mitigation strategies.