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Best Practices Case Study

Organization: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Contact(s): Shelly Forte, Special Assistant for Enterprise Recruitment, Governor’s Office of Administration Jim Honchar, Deputy Secretary for Human Resources and Management

Organization Profile

Comprised of more than 73,000 salaried employees and approximately 8,000 wage employees across 18 cabinet level agencies and more than 40 executive offices, boards and commissions. 82% of the workforce is represented by 1 of 20 unions and over 70% of the workforce is merit (civil service) covered.

Business Case for Change

The average starting age into Pennsylvania state government employment is 37 with an average age of the workforce at 45. Over the next 5 years over 25% of the commonwealth’s workforce will be eligible to retire. This combined with a 5% reduction in the overall number of full time employees in the last 5 years has resulted in the need to strategize and re-purpose hiring efforts towards a more global, generational approach.

A further concern that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania as an employer is only hiring millennials into state government jobs at a rate of less than 50% of the total workforce in Pennsylvania for that same population.

Call to Action (Recruitment)

In 2015 Shelly Forte, an HR professional with extensive recruitment experience in the private and public sectors was appointed as a special assistant to the Governor’s Secretary of Administration to spearhead the redevelopment of recruitment strategies within state government.

A Generational Taskforce was created with three (3) sub- groups to focus on: 1) recruitment 2) retention 3) branding.

The taskforce consists of about 80 employees from various agencies who are researching best practices for recruitment and retention across multiple generations.

In the fall of 2015, the Commonwealth Public Service Intern Program was created. This program was designed to attract full time college students as early as their sophomore year into a paid internship that can also lead to full-time employment upon graduation. This internship requires a cumulative 6 months of work within a field of study between the time the student begins their internship until no later than 3 months after graduation. Upon successful completion, the student is eligible to be placed into a full- time, salaried position within the professional occupation for which they attained a degree and completed an internship. By starting the interns work experience as early as the end of their sophomore year, the aim is to provide a meaningful work experience and exposure to public service before they have given any thought about other full-time careers after college.

The program started with 42 interns across a variety of work (e.g., engineering, IT, etc.). It starts with a 6-month commitment – the interns can participate during their semester, winter or spring breaks, etc.; very flexible. To complete the entire program is to work approximately 1000 hours. There are scheduled networking events specific to the interns. This year five (5) events were coordinated for both knowledge and social exchange. If the intern is successful in the 3-month period, they can return to complete an additional 3 months to complete the 1000 hour requirement. If the intern finds the area of work chosen is not a good match, the program is flexible to find a better match.


It has been these interns who have helped to drive the branding for recruitment efforts. They have helped in creating on-line videos with current permanent employees talking about why the love their position with the Commonwealth and being in public service.

It also fills a need to replace talent that is leaving for retirement, etc. It helps to support the agencies in their workforce planning as well.

Measuring Success

The program is winding down in the fall of 2016, it will be at that time the program will be measured by surveying college counselors, the interns, and their supervisors. Success will ultimately be measured by the percentage of interns that return to complete the 1000 hours and the percentage that end of staying with the Commonwealth in permanent positions.

Retention and Development Strategies

The commonwealth has implemented a number of ongoing development programs aimed at the career minded public service employee to enable them to prepare for advancement opportunities within state government. The major programs include:

Commonwealth’s Mentoring Program – This year long program partners mentors and mentees to allow for the exchange of knowledge and experiences to better prepare an employee for advancement within state government. Additionally, each pair is required to identify a work process where knowledge transfer is necessary and develop a strategy to implement that knowledge transfer for more effective succession planning. This program includes a variety of hands-on, classroom, and soft-skill activities.

Emerging Leader Program – This program is geared towards individuals who aspire to move into supervisor/management positions. It provides a variety of self and peer-assessment activities, leadership development and managerial exercises.

Leadership Development Institute – This year long program is the cornerstone of the commonwealths managerial development for mid level managers. For over 25 years, this program has successfully prepared current leaders in honing their skills, sharing experiences, consulting with executives and identifying strengths and opportunities for improvement to better prepare themselves for upper and executive level positions.