Local governments have a huge opportunity to engage residents, and hire for open positions, by integrating text messaging into how they communicate.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many local job markets have struggled to find enough workers to meet the demand of retail stores, restaurants, and other traditional hourly jobs. This can be especially tricky to navigate for local governments that aren’t actively using job boards or more technologically-advanced forms of hiring. And with the explosion of hiring needs that come along with summer, the challenges continue to mount – especially in the midst of cultural changes that are leading fewer teenagers to work. According to Pew Research Center, the number of teenagers working at least part-time in the summer dropped from around 50% on average to 30% between 2000 and 2010.
With a limited pool of applicants and the tight budgets that city and town governments typically operate on, it’s important to consider nontraditional means of communication to address this gap. Text-based communication platforms like Hustle are a great way to spread the word on hiring needs, connect with more residents, and get them placed in paying roles that support their local communities.
The Lifeguard Problem
This lack of talent availability and increased staffing pressure that many local governments have seen in recent years also has a direct impact on the availability of city services, like parks, pools, and even playgrounds. One of the summer jobs that is finding fewer and fewer applicants in these contexts is lifeguarding. While the job is often romanticized and can be a pretty excellent gig for those who make the cut, it also comes with a lot of responsibility, training, and hard work, which can make it a difficult job to hire for. Many cities and towns that aren’t able to hire enough lifeguards and other support positions that make pools such a commonly available resource for residents each summer are actually considering decreasing hours or closing completely.
The reasons for low employee availability vary from area to area. In some towns, summer camps or summer classes take the attention of teenagers in another direction. In others, the availability of higher-paying internships, or even the cost of lifeguard training can be prohibitive to filling these roles. To combat this trend, some local governments have started paying for lifeguard training and expanding their benefits programs to attract applicants.
These shifts in hiring practices are important and create more equitable ground for those who might be interested in applying, but one of the additional factors that many local governments are leaving on the table when it comes to hiring for summer is an awareness that the positions are available in the first place. For those who aren’t actively involved in their local community or unaware of what services their city or town provides in the first place, it can be helpful to use nontraditional means of communication, including social media and even texting with residents, to get people more actively involved and interested.
How Texting Makes a Difference
In an increasingly digital era, it’s essential that cities and parks recreation departments explore nontraditional communications methods to reach potential new hires. According to Gartner, text message open rates are around 98%, with response rates up to 45%. For local governments that rely on email, physical mail, or even government websites to showcase job openings, text messaging can boost engagement in a big way. Texting platforms like Hustle make it easy to integrate text messaging into local government marketing and communications strategies and can be used by multiple team members to quickly spread the word.
When it comes to accelerating hiring for summer, here are a few ways Hustle can come in handy:
- Raise awareness of open positions: Are you using a web-based job board, newsletter, or email to share open positions with your community? Consider targeting specific age groups or sending a broadcast message (to thousands of residents in a few minutes) with roles that they might find appealing.
- Promote an upcoming job fair: A mid-sized city has used Hustle to communicate with residents far and wide to ensure they’re aware of opportunities to engage in person about open positions, like job fairs. You can even include a registration link in your text messages to make it as easy as possible for residents to participate.
- Share information about summer services and the availability of services throughout the year: Some residents may not even be aware that certain parks and recreation services are available to them in their town or city, much less that your office is looking to fill positions to keep them open. Having an open dialogue with your community about what you have to offer is a great way to build relationships while also expanding your talent pool.
- Call on residents to help spread the word: Even if you’re not reaching out directly to potential new hires, engaging with your residents about potential hiring gaps, changes to service availability, or just open positions, in general, can have an impact on how the needs or your city or town get met. You never know who might be visiting for the summer!
- Showcase the benefits and perks of working with local government: As more and more opportunities for summer work, play, and learning enter the equation, sharing what’s great about working for your city or town is a great way to get more residents involved in work directly with and for their local government.
The last few years have made it clear that hiring challenges will continue throughout North America for some time to come. One of the critical moves for local governments to make is to expand their communications strategy to meet residents where they are, and even connect with nontraditional audiences to increase interest in open positions. As we head into another busy summer season, texting can give your organization a boost in helping provide the services that may get left behind or cut without proper support and staff numbers.