How to Bridge the Generation Gap (@GovExec)

With 8,000 baby boomers retiring each day, managing a multigenerational workplace is becoming even more crucial for government agencies. But while businesses, schools and health care organizations have made progress attracting younger employees, governments are falling behind. Less than 6 percent of college graduates surveyed in 2014 report interest in federal, state or local service compared with 37 percent for private industry and 20 percent for health care.

Millennials (born from 1981-1997) have some distinct differences from other generations. Millennials grew up in the information age with constant connection to social media. They are highly social and impatient, always looking for entertainment, connectivity and technology. To this group, experience is priceless. They are used to constant feedback and rapid career progression. All of these characteristics can challenge many of the standard rules, policies and procedures for hiring and managing employees in government.

Attracting the Next Generation Workforce

While long-term policy and procedure changes can help create a more inclusive workplace, there are some immediate things government agencies can do to attract millennial workers, including:

  • Reworking job descriptions to advertise what matters to millennials: professional development, mentoring and flexibility. In interviews, think about different experiences and paths a potential employee could take, and emphasize those options. Remember, millennials don’t respond well to rigid hierarchy, and they prefer rapid progression within the organization — a mind-set often perceived as entitlement by Gen Xers and boomers.
  • Emphasizing personal development opportunities. It’s easy to think that government is at a disadvantage because government can’t pay at levels the private sector can, but pay is less important to millennials than personal development. Many government employees have been with the organization for a long time and have a lot of valuable experience to share.
  • Eliminating time-consuming administrative tasks so millennials spend time on “valuable” work. Like Gen Xers, millennials are results-driven; it’s just the timeframe in which the results are achieved that differ. Millennials assume results should be achieved within 40 hours. If efficient, it may take less than 40 hours. Cutting out busywork with business process automation is one way to support efficient-minded millennials — and satisfy busy Gen Xers, too.

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