From this point forward, saving every minute and dollar possible in anticipation for what lies ahead will be crucial to survival in the public sector.

Maybe you’ve heard us talk about the silver tsunami, or perhaps you’ve read other articles on it, but the reality is while we all can clearly see what’s coming for us, few of us are doing anything to prepare for it.

Let’s be clear about what awaits us: in less than 10 years’ time almost half of the public sector workforce will retire.

Conservative estimates put the looming exodus at 40 percent. Depending on the make-up of your workforce this mass departure could happen at a more subtle pace throughout the next decade or it could happen almost over night, in a single fiscal year or season. Regardless of the makeup of your workforce, the coming silver tsunami will leave destruction in its wake.

Boomers are planning for what is next. Are you?

The hard truth is, there is no back-fill for these employees, and communities that aren’t prepared will have a disaster on their hands.

That isn’t hyperbole. And, despite the severity of my words, I assure you, I am not an alarmist. Just think for a minute about what you would do if half your employees notified you tomorrow that they will be leaving in the next six months. Disaster might not strike immediately on the day the last of them left, but we’d be fooling ourselves to think it wouldn’t happen eventually.

Think about it in the context of your community. Would a new team know everything they needed to do and when they needed to do it? Would one of them realize if an annual report had slipped under the radar or would that report just be something they were told about once during their first week on the job, but haven’t thought about since?

This is a real problem and we need real solutions to solve it. The word EFFICIENCY must be on the tip of every administrator’s tongue. Why, you may ask?

There just won’t be enough people to do the work otherwise.

We’ve talked about using technology as a necessary backstop, but technology is only one element of defense. Considering the loss of institutional knowledge that will result from the workforce exodus, local leaders must place succession planning at the top of their strategic planning list now if they want to avoid the consequences of a depleted workforce and institutional knowledge loss later.

There’s a shortage of public sector finance directors.

Finance directors are in especially short order. A 2017 survey by the Financial Executive Research Foundation (FERF) and Financial Executives International (FEI), found that 62 percent of organizations report finance departments that are at least somewhat understaffed. A problem that will only be exasperated by retiring boomers.

Add to that the specialty knowledge required and highly important information worked with and the unplanned retirement of a public finance director can create a severe vulnerability. Imagine what it will be like in your community when a new finance director replaces your veteran CFO. Will file names used by the outgoing CFO convert to the understanding of their replacement? Will the new CFO even be able to find those files? And, even if they can locate them will they be able to reverse engineer convoluted Excel files whose data integrity and formulas have no checks and balances.

Sensing the trouble ahead, we asked sophisticated communities — communities that use expensive, name brand software solutions — to provide us with a five-year summary headcount by department. Most respondents didn’t know how to find it or if it was something they were even tracking. Over and over again we heard variations of the same thing, “HR has that information.” Only to have HR say, “You need to get that from finance.”

Houston, we have a problem!

Next, take into consideration that the next generation of municipal administrators (yes, the millennials) are not Microsoft Office people. These young adults are willing and often want to work in the public sector, but they won’t stand for arcane technology. They use apps, mobile devices, Google Docs, online open face platforms and other alternatives that the older generation doesn’t want to learn. This might not seem like a serious problem if you’re focus is on the end result. After all, if they can produce a graph or chart that provides the information you need, that’s all the matters, right? But not all programs, software and technology are compatible. An up-to-date and unified system is needed to protect data loss through transitioning employees.

To safeguard the data and information that matters most, communities need to have a data management strategy that is dependable, user-friendly and stays in place regardless of personnel changes. And to streamline transitions, communities need that intuitive technology.

Imagine a new finance director coming to work in your city from another state. Would they know what reports are needed and when they have to file them? Would they be able to make debt payments to the appropriate institution on time? Would they be able to find official statements or other back-up material when needed?

Public organizations have an obligation to keep their data safe, secure and accessible for future generations.

Seeing the serious issues facing communities in the coming decade, and being in the business of helping communities to help themselves, Munetrix is expanding upon its data management strategy by institutionalizing role-based information, creating a seamless handoff from retiree to new hire.

Instead of information being assigned to a person, it’s assigned to a role, and when a new hire turns on their machine, BOOM, everything is at their fingertips, including notifications that tell them what they need to do and when they need to do it.

2 Comments
  • Donald Sovey, CPA, CFO
    9:36 AM, May 2018

    Great article Bob. It is true!

  • Laura M Oliveto
    3:27 PM, June 2018

    Just telling it like it is …

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