City of Minneapolis officials are setting big goals for hiring and retaining women and people of color as they seek to make the workforce inside City Hall better reflect the increasingly diverse population outside its walls.

About 26 percent of the city's 3,800-member workforce is made up of people of color, and about 29 percent are women. But by 2022, officials want the demographic breakdown to more closely align with census data. Their goal: a workforce made up of about 41 percent people of color and 45 percent women.

The city has some momentum building toward that end, including a slight uptick in the hiring of people of color in recent years and the expansion of a successful internship program aimed at minority students. Also expected to help is a recent City Council decision to eliminate a hiring process criticized for being too limiting and outdated.

But staffing numbers released by the city this month show that Minneapolis also faces two troubling trends: the number of women in the city's workforce has been on the decline in recent years, and a disproportionate number of minority and female employees are leaving the city after just a few years on the job.

Patience Ferguson, the city's chief human resources officer, told the council that reversing those trends would require the city to do more regular tracking of its employment statistics — and would require each department to make the same goals a priority.

"We believe that as leaders of the city enterprise, it's really our responsibility to really continue to set that tone of urgency and importance of moving this work ahead," she said.

Over the past six years, the number of people of color working for the city has grown by about 1.4 percent. In the same period, the number of women employees has dropped by 2.1 percent. But in both cases, the numbers of what the city calls "separations" — employees leaving for reasons other than retirement — has been more stark. From 2010 to 2015, for example, 69 percent of the people of color who left their city jobs did so for reasons other than retirement. That's compared with 49 percent for white employees.

It's not clear what prompts so many of the women and minority workers to leave, many before they've been with the city for three years. Officials told the council that they're working to set up a better exit-interview system, so they can pinpoint any major problem areas and work to fix them.

Council Member Cam Gordon said he'd like to see the city collect more data from individual departments to see which ones are having success — or are struggling — with diversifying. He asked that human resources officials post quarterly reports to show progress.

"Hopefully, those will be available online so we can all see that, we can all hold ourselves accountable and ask the public to help hold us accountable," he said.

Minneapolis isn't the only city pushing to diversify its workforce at a faster pace. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman singled out his city's goals in his State of the City address this year, noting that 40 percent of St. Paul residents are people of color but that they represent only 19.5 percent of the city's workforce. By the end of 2017, he said, he wants that number to rise to 23 percent.

Coleman said he intends to request more resources for recruiting people of color in his next budget. He noted that St. Paul is making some strides in hiring through a handful of training programs, including the Fire Department's emergency medical services academy.

In Minneapolis, the city also has expanded training programs directed at people of color. That includes a Fire Department training program for high school students and another for young adults. The Police Department has aimed to diversify its ranks with the help of its Community Service Officer program, where participant classes have a higher percentage of people of color than the police force overall.

Ferguson said the city is expanding its offerings of "implicit bias" training sessions, which aim to help employees identify perceptions they might have about others. While all police officers are participating in similar training, the classes are currently optional for other city employees.

Scrapping the 'rule of three'

Meanwhile, the council voted last week to eliminate a hiring practice known as the "rule of three." The practice, used for decades at City Hall, was a rating process for job applicants based on testing and other qualifications that allowed hiring managers to consider only the top three candidates based on the scoring system.

Some council members said they've been interested in getting rid of the system for years, because it works against applicants who might meet qualifications and perform well in an interview but score lower on traditional testing methods.

Before a unanimous vote to change the city's charter to remove the rule, several council members praised the yearslong effort by Council Member Elizabeth Glidden to tackle the issue. Council Member Lisa Goodman said the vote would amount to a "systemic change" in the city's hiring process.

"This is perhaps one of the largest equity and economic development things we have taken on, because in the end it will give us the ability to hire people who look more like the community we have all been elected to represent, and to do it in a much more fair way," she said.