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.


Finding ways to make federal employees want to stay


Federal agencies are focusing on ways to attract and retain the next generation of employees, and finding that performance incentives and improved engagement are key.

The Office of Personnel Management’s recent release of the 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data shows incremental improvement in most federal agencies in terms of employee engagement and workplace satisfaction.

At the General Services Administration, strategies to improve the workplace experience center around forging interpersonal relationships, creating and publishing employee engagement goals and simply finding out “what communications do people want more of,” deputy administrator Andrew Neufeld said.

“It’s not a budgetary issue for the most part,” said Neufeld, who was speaking at Atlantic Media’s Fedstival event. “I think it’s pretty customized for each organization. There’s no wrong way to figure this out.”

But Neufeld cautioned that “it took us about two years” to show a significant bump in the FEVS.

Meanwhile, Donald Kettl, a fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration, openly fretted about the future.

“Turns out, the millennials are the least engaged generation in the workforce more generally, not just in government,” Kettl said. He suggested that one reason millennials do not feel engaged is the lack of communication with supervisors who “don’t give them a sense of value.”

While the FEVS is often discussed as a measurement of the experience of lower-level employees, the survey also measures the satisfaction of leadership.

A key incentive for the senior executive service is for “agencies to go and revisit their pay plans until they actually compensate these senior executives,” said Stephen Shih, OPM’s deputy associate director of employee services, executive resources and employee development.

Due to overlap in the SES and general schedule pay scales, “there’s a possibility” that SES officials can be appointed at a certain pay rate that falls below the GS-15s they manage,” he said. “Obviously this is not a great dynamic where you’re trying to recruit the best leaders and keep them in the SES where their staff might be making more than them.”


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.


What is the Next Generation of Government Training Summit?

The NextGen summit is the embodiment of what NextGen represents: inspiring government innovation and providing training and leadership opportunities for public servants. Since 2010, the two-day summit has inspired over 4,000 federal, state and local govies to be positive change ambassadors.

Why does it matter to me?

The NextGen Summit is a place to cultivate and enable the absolute best next generation of government. Whether you’re a millennial just entering the government workforce or a manager tasked with retaining and developing talent, or a seasoned public servant looking for new resources or challenges, the NextGen Summit is where you want to be.

Check out this year’s schedule, our Public Service Awards program, and line up of past speakers to take a closer look at who and what makes the NextGen Summit great, and why you need to be a part of it.

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What Millennials Want From Work and Life

Leaders are increasingly turning their attention to the millennial generation, whose attitudes and preferences may profoundly reshape workplaces and society.

In the U.S., roughly 73 million millennials were born between 1980 and 1996. Like those in every generation before them, millennials strive for a life well-lived. They want good jobs — ones with 30-plus hours of work a week and regular paychecks from employers. They also want to be engaged in those jobs, meaning they are emotionally and behaviorally connected to them.

In addition to finding steady, engaging jobs, millennials want to have high levels of well-being, which means more than being physically fit. Yes, millennials want to be healthy, but they also want a purposeful life, active community and social ties, and financial stability. Regarding that financial stability, millennials want to be able to spend money on what they want — not just on what they need.

Are millennials getting what they want out of work and life? Not so much.

Gallup’s latest report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, finds that millennials struggle to find good jobs that engage them. Millennials have the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment in the U.S., and only 29% of employed millennials are engaged at work. Half of millennials say they feel good about the amount of money they have to spend, and less than 40% are what Gallup defines as “thriving” in any one aspect of well-being. Their overall well-being nearly matches that of Gen Xers and baby boomers, meaning millennials have not been able to forge better paths for themselves than many Americans have before them. While the dream of all parents is to have their children lead a better life than their own, not all millennials are positioned for such success.

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