Mentors don’t have to be older, of higher rank, or from the same department. It’s more important that he or she is a good listener, tolerates mistakes, and will know when the protégé is ready for new responsibilities.
DenGuy/iStock Mentors don’t have to be older, of higher rank, or from the same department. It’s more important that he or she is a good listener, tolerates mistakes, and will know when the protégé is ready for new responsibilities.

You don’t need the U.S. Census Bureau to see the writing on the wall. With more than 250,000 Americans turning 65 each month, baby boomers are retiring in droves. Over the last decade, their participation in the workforce has dropped from 82% to 66%.

So you’re probably watching years of experience and institutional knowledge march out the door. While the exodus may seem devastating, your department has outreach opportunities that never existed before.

Not so long ago, your team quietly did its job unnoticed until residents encountered a problem. Today, technology has changed the face of public works — or, more precisely, has made that face familiar. With the tap of a smartphone, constituents can interact with your agency anytime and anywhere. This engagement is a powerful tool for attracting top talent.

“Constant communications shows residents what we’re doing and that promotes the profession,” says Eric Dundee, principal engineer for the City of Madison, Wis. Agencies use social media to post updates on road construction or water shutdowns, offering online alerts that track snow plows, redesigning websites to solicit input from residents via polls and live chat, and sharing informative and entertaining videos.

As residents witness the integral role played by public works employees in their community, they become more aware of the diverse skills needed to provide the wide range of services they receive. “Public works accommodates all backgrounds and levels of education,” says Dundee. “We need everybody.”

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