A collision of trends in the labor market is helping fuel an increase in business for political HR consultants and may hamper campaigns’ ability to hire staff ahead of the midterm cycle.
Dallas Thompson, president of HR consulting shop Bright Compass, said she’s seen an increase in business as firms have shifted to remote work environments and tried to train managers to handle staff they may only know from the occasional Zoom meeting.
Bright Compass, which launched in 2019 as the industry was grappling with the #MeToo movement, has expanded its offerings to include communication, leadership and management training.
“Folks in politics typically don’t get promoted because they’re great people managers. They get promoted because they’re really good at data, or fundraising or whatever, so we’ve developed this whole curriculum that’s like trainings in conflict resolution” and communication, Thompson said. “It’s been really well received by both the committees, but also by campaigns who are eager to troubleshoot issues, especially in this COVID environment where team building was harder.”
She started to see business pick up last cycle as campaigns bought into different parts of the company’s curriculum, or they developed modules for specific issues clients were facing because of the remote work environment.
“We had some teams making high four-figure or low-five figure investments in staff development and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that on campaigns before. It’s a really exciting shift,” she said.
What initially fueled the investment in HR services on the left was the #MeToo and racial justice movements, but Thompson said that now the unionization trend is also playing a part.
“Some campaigns are starting to unionize so workers are expecting a different experience and a different investment and campaigns are responding to that and seeing the value in creating a better work environment through a training,” she said.
Finding staff is also becoming more difficult for both sides. Thompson said it could be because some young people have taken on caregiving roles for older family members, or are simply burned out from working through the pandemic.
“The number of folks who are able to just kind of ditch everything and move somewhere to work for a campaign and go seven days a week year-round could be lessened,” she said.
Eric Wilson, a GOP digital consultant, noted that GOP campaigns have to convince “solopreneurs” that it’s worth coming on board as staff.
“A number of recent conversations have focused on the dynamics of political talent and recruiting. It’s very difficult right now to hire campaign staff,” he tweeted Sept. 17. “The people who would do these jobs are setting up as solopreneurs to have more flexibility and control.
“I think this shift has happened because of remote work, software for freelancers, and a Millennial/Gen Z approach to work/life balance. I came of age in a system where you had to physically be somewhere (remote) and go all-in. Younger politicos want something different.”