If you’ve been putting off working with human resources to recruit, hire, train, and retain top talent, it’s time to move this item to the top of the priority list. This year’s salary survey results indicate a potential crisis we’ve talked about for years: Retiring baby boomers are difficult to replace in a profession still recovering from recession.

Nobody under the age of 25 responded to the survey and only 13% of respondents are 40 or younger. Conversely, 27% are 55 to 60 years old and 25% are older than 60.

More state and local governments are now hiring, but they face stiff competition from the private sector. A special-district wastewater/stormwater engineer from the Southeast making $78,000 a year describes an increasingly common phenomenon: “We’re only able to get marginally qualified replacements at current salaries. Due to a reduction in benefits and pay over the last few years, our agency has very high turnover.”

As anyone who’s worked in an organization with above-average turnover knows, the constant change eats away at employee morale and service quality.

To keep that from happening, the Center for State & Local Government Excellence recommends the following. Some aren’t within the realm of possibility for government agencies, but some are.

  • Build a brand that tells the great story of public service. Millennials and Generation Z (the incoming generation of employees) value opportunities to do something worthwhile and make a difference in the community. Use this to your advantage.
  • Revamp antiquated policies and practices. Offer flexible schedules, telecommuting, less-rigid job descriptions and compensation bands, and work-life balance.
  • Prepare for transition. Nurture future supervisors via talent-management programs such as mentoring and job shadowing, and do your succession planning. Internships are a great way to introduce students to the profession and groom them for potential full-time positions.
  • Develop a culture that values and engages employees in meaningful ways. Give them more responsibility for setting priorities, fostering a collaborative environment, and providing feedback. Develop events, committees, and even extracurricular activities like recreational sports teams to enhance their sense of belonging to the same “family.”
  • Provide tools employees need to be successful. Younger workers are drawn to agencies that use the most recent technology.