An Insight on the Thoughts of Millennials in Federal Government

Millennials have plenty to say about the federal government. Some of them are good, some of them, less so. The results of the joint Young Government Leaders (YGL) and Federal News Radio survey on their perspective on recruitment and retention provide a handful of takeaways.

NOTE: There were 994 total participants overall, with the majority (69%) of them between the ages of 25-34 years old. Of those that were surveyed, we can say with moderate certainty that around two thirds of them were YGL members.

Motivations and Driving Factors: Duty, Stability and Career Growth

When asked what were the main reasons that drove them to join the federal government, about 27% said it was because of civic duty, followed by pay and benefits and lastly, serving the agency’s mission. When asked what factors however, will influence their decision to stay and build a career in the federal government, the majority answered “job satisfaction.”

One of the federal government’s greatest recruiting assets is stability, which is likely why so many Millennials who grew up experiencing economic uncertainty opt for a government career. There’s also a wide variety of jobs available at every part of the globe, great benefits, and competitive pay; but despite these well-known advantages of having a job in government, an overwhelming number of them will still consider leaving if they feel that there aren’t enough opportunities to grow their careers.

The federal government needs to do a better job of ensuring that younger people know about all the professional development programs available within each agency and that opportunities for growth are available at each career level. Establish employee resource groups dedicated to emerging leaders within each agency or partner with organizations like Young Government Leaders to help develop the future generation of civil servants.

Time is of the Essence

There is a Millennial talent gap crisis but the good news is that they remain optimistic about their career in the federal government. Their continued desire to serve the public is the key motivating factor for wanting to stay but the bad news is that they aren’t willing to wait years for changes to occur.

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion

One of the biggest gaps lies in recruitment and retention. When asked whether the federal government is doing enough to recruit young talent, over half of the respondents including older participants, disagreed. The federal government needs to recognize that their current hiring process is broken and that immediate changes are necessary in order to compete with the private sector. Also, it has to learn to embrace the shifts in culture and technology in order to retain the more liberal and technology-savvy Millennials.

Note too that almost two thirds of participants 35 and under responded “yes” when asked whether they were perceived differently because of their age, indicating that the federal government still has a long way to go when it comes to understanding generational differences. To improve the generation gap, senior leadership ought to be champions of diversity and inclusion, focusing more on what the younger generation of government employees can bring to the table rather than casting assumptions and stereotypes. All agencies should aim to become the type of workplace that embraces diversity and prides itself in equal opportunity.

The results of this survey led to some crucial insights about Millennials in the federal government. It revealed the reasons why Millennials pursue a career in the federal government and the key factors to get them to stay. It also pointed out areas of opportunities in recruitment and retention that managers and supervisors can improve upon. Finally, it revealed that there is indeed a pervasive generational gap that’s negatively affecting the culture within the federal government.

From YGL. This article was written by Joseph Maltby with contributions from Iris Alon.

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