In its 2018 state and local government workforce survey, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence says government HR professionals are concerned about the present and future government workforce. These HR pros say retirements in their agencies are increasing in frequency. About 44 percent of respondents say retirements in the most recent year were up from the year before. Respondents also say the number of eligible employees postponing their retirements has fallen substantially.

In Kentucky, state and local government workers are retiring at an accelerated pace. Nearly 1,300 more public employees than expected chose to retire during the fiscal year that ends June 30, creating an 18 percent spike in withdrawals at the already cash-strapped Kentucky Retirement Systems.

Tammy Rimes, the executive director of the National Cooperative Procurement Partners, has seen the revved-up pace of public sector retirements first-hand. “I remember a few years ago when serving as Purchasing Agent in the San Diego city government, on June 30th, there were almost 800 retirements in one day…out of a 10,000-person workforce.  Many of these were long-time personnel and at the highest level of the organization – including the fire chief who had just won the California Fire Chief of the Year award.”

Yes the government workforce is aging, Rimes says. She adds that the trend to stingier pensions and retirement packages is also pushing older workers to consider early and timely retirements. “The pension landscape is changing. The past full benefit packages, with medical, are being scaled down with deadlines for retiring. In many cases, the new fiscal year (that may start July 1) may activate these new schedules, and many employees leave to retain the higher benefit status.”

The potential reductions in benefits also make it more difficult to bring in new workers, Rimes says. “The one great advantage that government had over the private sector was its benefit and medical packages, and that is no longer the case.”

Yes, public procurement teams are facing growing workloads. Nearly 40 percent of the state and local procurement professionals polled in a GovWin+Onvia from Deltek survey indicated their teams were “stretched” or working extra hours to meet their deadlines—that percentage of overworked staffers is 4 percent higher than the percentage reported in the past year’s survey. The teams expect the workload to continue expanding. Almost 40 percent of responding procurement staff expects growth in bid volumes in the next 12 months. 

Procurement teams can fill the gap by becoming more strategic and using tools such as cooperative procurement contracts, Rimes says. "The time and effort to solicit and award a contract can be a huge investment in resources and personnel time. Saving this time, by using an already solicited contract, while potentially driving additional savings through leveraging a greater combined spend with other agencies, make it an advantageous choice." She adds that the choices are growing in the number of cooperative vehicles available, as well as the adoption and use of these kinds of contracts.

Automation is another answer to addressing the increasing workload, Rimes tells Coop Solutions. "Where in the past, eProcurement systems were a module within a more complex financial enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, they often are cumbersome or have a lower priority within the financial system. Today there are many vendors that specialize in procurement processes and create systems unique to procurement.” Rimes says a modular-based system can take care of time-consuming responsibilities, such as bid and contract management, vendor registration and insurance, and still integrate with existing agency financial systems.

Rimes believes the incoming younger workforce will most likely be the drivers in bringing the few remaining manual procurement processes into a more automated and efficient system. The new generation, Rimes says, "are expecting -– and not understanding -– if a process is not automated."
 

Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: michael.keating@informa.com.

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