Northborough Town Administrator talks hiring challenges with Diversity and Inclusion Committee

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By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

Northborough Town Administrator talks hiring challenges with Diversity and Inclusion CommitteeNORTHBOROUGH — Northborough Town Administrator John Coderre shared the challenges of filling town positions with the town’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee at a meeting on Aug. 5.

The committee has recently been meeting with town and school departments and committees. 

Committee chair Tim Kaelin said when they talked with some of the departments in the town, many mentioned challenges surrounding hiring. 

“Are you having the same challenges around hiring and recruiting as far as interest in positions and getting qualified people to apply for jobs?” Kaelin asked.  

Coderre said that, based on meetings with area chambers of commerce, members’ number one complaint is the challenge of recruiting and retaining employees. Some municipal positions have become difficult to recruit for, he continued. 

“When I started in this business 25 years ago, we’d advertise a police position and I’d have 200 applicants,” Coderre said. “Now we’re lucky to get a dozen people, and of those, trying to get down to qualified people that we want to become part of our organization, it gets very tight.”

For some positions — especially relating to town finance, town planning and public health — there aren’t people in the applicant pool, Coderre said. 

“What we find is that municipalities are poaching from each other,” he said. 

Municipalities don’t have the flexibility to provide incentives like signing bonuses that are offered in the private sector, Coderre continued.

Coderre has participated in professional associations to encourage people, particularly women and minorities, to get in the municipal management business. 

He said Northborough looks for rising stars in other municipalities with the potential to move up. It also seeks to pull in staff who work for what Coderre called “bad organizations” or subpar systems. 

Meanwhile, in some cases, Northborough will help train individuals and they will be poached. 

“It’s important that you have a good organization and a good culture and that people want to work here because money is important,” he said. “…It’s not the deciding factor. It’s a factor. But it’s the culture and it’s the opportunity to grow and the other things that keep people here for a certain amount of time.” 

Kaelin asked how diversity and inclusion fit in with the town culture. 

“We as humans want to feel like we’re part of something and a community,” Coderre said. “That’s the culture that we try to encourage.” 

At the manager level, Coderre said the town has tried to create partnerships with universities and programs to get students interested in serving in local government. 

Coderre said the town did recently work intentionally to hire a female police officer. 

“It’s very difficult for a variety of reasons,” she said of that hiring process. “A lot of folks don’t want to do the job. There’s a physical requirement that poses a barrier oftentimes.” 

He noted that one applicant for a position in town said she applied after seeing the Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s statement in response to George Floyd’s death. 

“The fact that this committee exists and that we’re putting that out there that diversity and inclusion is important to us — I think that has an impact,” Coderre said.

 

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