Recruiting, Retention of Younger Federal Employees Examined

Employees under age 40 make up a much lower share of the federal workforce compared with the overall American workforce, GAO has said.

While employees of that age make up 45 percent of the overall national employed workforce, they make up only 30 percent of the federal workforce, GAO told a Senate hearing. Just 1.8 percent of federal employees are age 25 or younger compared with 12.6 percent overall, and just 6.4 percent are age 26-29 compared with 10.8 percent, it said (OPM recently reported slightly different figures).

Budget restrictions several years ago had crimped hiring of younger employees in those years but those pressures are now mostly relieved; however, the under-40 cohort also has slightly higher turnover than other age groups, it said.

Ability to recruit and retain younger workers is a special concern given they are the most likely to have the skills the government needs in fields such as the cyber, science, technical, engineering and math fields, and in the face of high levels of retirement eligibility among older workers, it said.

“As retirements of federal employees continue, some agencies with few millennials may face future gaps in leadership, expertise, and critical skills because millennials represent the next generation of workers,” GAO said.

“To help ensure agencies have the capacity to address these challenges, it will be important for them to recruit and retain employees able to thrive in organizations that are flatter, results-oriented, and externally focused, and that collaborate with other governmental entities as well as with the private sector to achieve desired outcomes. In short, agencies need to be competitive in the labor market for top talent, including millennials,” it said.

“This means going beyond merely attracting and hiring quality candidates; rather, it calls for a robust talent management strategy,” it said, adding that such elements should include: data-driven workforce and succession planning; active recruiting; effective on-boarding programs; results-oriented training and development; meaningful performance management; comparable pay and benefits; and a culture of employee engagement.

 

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