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Effective recruitment and retention practice in state judiciaries

May 24, 2023

By Alyssa Nekritz

Several 2022 Institute for Court Management (ICM) Fellows papers have focused on a glaring problem across the judiciary: staff recruitment and retention. Multiple state chief justices have echoed this sentiment in their state of judiciary speeches.

By collecting data via surveys and one-on-one interviews, the ICM Fellows were able to draw distinct conclusions and provide recommendations to court administrations. The results offer critical methods to implement recruitment and retention best practices.

The nature of the judiciary and the workforce is shifting, and all levels of staff can feel the impact. Courts are faced with two staffing problems:

  1. The baby boomer population, who have been in court administrative positions for decades, is retiring. It is integral that lessons learned from departing employees are passed on to incoming workers.
  2. Entry-level positions have high turnover rates with a low number of applicants. The courts need to incentivize more people to apply for and stay in their positions.

A Fellow’s paper discusses the need for court administrations to cultivate succession plans through internal recruitment. Succession plans encourage current employees who are looking for career advancement to apply and help reduce administrative hiring costs. Employees, especially millennials, want opportunities for advancement. The report also provides suggestions on how to implement employee evaluations to gauge career interests and solicit feedback on a potential succession. This paper focused on Cass County, North Dakota, but other court systems can learn from these recommendations. The Judiciary of Guam uses a Talent Management Program (TMP) to outline separate leadership tracks that employees can take. Other organizations use a 9-Box Talent Grid Template, which measures employee performance against career advancement potential. All court administration organizations are different, so each court should create its own employee evaluation metrics.

In the future, state judiciaries must remain adaptable as they have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to recruit and retain employees. They must offer different work environmental changes for the next generation including:

  • Flexible working conditions, including options for remote work
  • Educational growth opportunities through skills courses or training
  • Creating a unified professional purpose and mission that employees can relate to
  • Incentivizing workers with opportunities for increased pay based on performance
  • Attracting a variety of applicants through local school career fairs, third-party websites, and social media advertisements
  • Promote job opportunities on social media (some use TikTok).

Another Fellow’s paper suggests that One Judiciary, or a unified state court system, will create a positive, collaborative work environment, a shared purpose for all employees, and better lines of communication across courthouses. While the definition of unified is dependent on the jurisdiction, things such as education, cross-training, advancement opportunities, and benefits can level the playing field and benefit everyone. The paper also stresses the importance of stay and exit interviews to receive continuous feedback and ensure that the jobs offered remain competitive.

Every year, ICM at NCSC accepts Fellows interested in conducting research on an aspect of the court system after completing their Certified Court Manager and Certified Court Executive classes. Check out the  ICM Programs if you want to improve your knowledge of court management and get support and resources to be published.

What is your court doing to improve recruitment and retention? For more information, contact or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.