Jun 21 2023

How the Oregon Department of Transportation Is Reaching Top Talent

In a recent webinar, ODOT Chief Content Strategist Sally Ridenour spoke about how her team overcomes hiring challenges.

In a recent webinar held by software company Granicus, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Chief Content Strategist Sally Ridenour spoke about ways she and her team work to attract qualified candidates and fill open roles with top talent.

State and local governments across the country still face cyber talent shortages, with organizations such as the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and the National Governors Association calling for agencies to strengthen their cybersecurity workforces. NASCIO and NGA found that governments must better communicate why state agencies can be attractive places to work and have qualified instructors who can train employees.

Webinar attendees reported that targeting qualified applicants and raising awareness for job openings have been the biggest challenges when trying to recruit workers. Ridenour also confirmed these as challenges in the transportation industry.

“Raising awareness about the different types of jobs in transportation is a challenge,” she says. “It’s always good to have a communication plan where you identify who your target audience is and your tactics and strategies for reaching that audience.”

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How Agencies Can Better Communicate to Improve Recruitment  

Ridenour says her team communicates the benefits of job openings by doing outreach at events and posting on social media, particularly LinkedIn. She says any ODOT communications about job openings are brief, energetic, and written in plain language. To further improve messaging, Ridenour adds that she talks to current employees to get their thoughts on why they enjoy working at ODOT.

Ridenour also points out that there are many specialized careers in the transportation industry — surveyors, engineers, snowplow drivers — which makes it more challenging finding qualified candidates. One way her team reaches people in specific fields is through associations, colleges, and other industry-specific organizations. And to avoid information silos, Ridenour’s team aims to reach a larger group of applicants by not only posting job listings on the website or in industry-specific communications but in broader communications channels, such as ODOT’s meeting announcements.

ODOT’s content team has also worked to standardize branding, creating templates that editors can use to make content with a consistent style across channels. ODOT also looks to the Public Relations Society for America and the National Association of Government Communicators for more communications campaign strategies.

Leveraging Data to Bolster the Recruitment Process 

Data analytics can help organizations get a better understanding of their applicants and what their target audience responds to. Ridenour’s team gathers information on an applicant’s job history and uses Granicus’ govDelivery platform for insights that will help improve messaging, such as what topics applicants follow, when they open communications, which subject lines are generating engagement and what links they click on. From there, they know how to craft messages that’ll engage qualified candidates.

“The more we can find out what appeals to our audience, the better,” Ridenour says. “Talking to your audience, talking to people who’ve come into your agency, talking to people who you want to come into your agency and finding out what appeals to them is really helpful.”

DISCOVER: State IT leaders discussed retaining cyber talent at NASCIO 2023 Midyear.

Focusing on DEI to Create Well-Rounded Teams 

NASCIO and NGA also called on states to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion when hiring, recruiting and retaining talent. ODOT does this by using integrated campaigns to reach as many different people as possible. The organization has links to job announcements in all communications and leverages a number of channels. To reach more members of the community, Ridenour’s team also goes out into the field with QR codes that people can scan to see job announcements.

“We’re not only looking at people who are interested but also for geographic diversity, gender diversity, racial diversity, all those things,” Ridenour says.

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