The biggest generation in U.S. history is now the largest generation in today’s labor market, yet in the public sector, millennials are a minority.
Government has long been challenged in competing with the private sector for the best talent, but now it is falling even further behind in attracting talented millennials. Millennials can bring your department, agency, or program the skills, attitude, and tech savvy to deliver 21st-century services in an era of lean public sector resources – but only if you have a practical plan in place to recruit and retain your next-generation workforce.
More than a paycheck
Millennials bring different priorities to the world of work. While they need and want the income, they aren’t only in it for the paycheck. Millennials value challenging work environments where they can learn, grow, contribute, and see their accomplishments shine. This generation values meaningful work for companies and organizations that have a social mission alongside the standard business imperatives.
Many of them also value work-life balance, which is something government may be better at than the private sector.
Surrounded by digital technology
This millennial expectation might be a stretch for your organization but will turn into the gift that keeps on giving – technology. Millennials are the first generation of employees who grew up surrounded by digital technology. Most of their time is spent tethered to their devices, and those devices set the standard for the technology they expect to find at work. They want efficient IT gear that gives them information they need, when they need it – or a business intelligence system that anticipates their next question before they ask it. They also want data and content on the go, with mobile or tablet connections to the mission-critical information they need to get their job done.
Lastly, they expect a streamlined, intuitive, beautiful IT interface that provides the same ease and range of access at work that they’re used to receiving at home. If those job features aren’t available, they will go where they can access them – which might explain why the U.S. public sector is falling so far behind in its effort to recruit and retain the next-generation of the workforce.
Government is not attracting millennials
The numbers tell the unhappy story: millennials make up the largest part of the U.S. workforce, but only 17.8% of the U.S. government workforce. Despite best efforts by generationally-savvy supervisors and HR departments, the results are no big surprise. As the wave of retiring baby boomers grows larger, tough competition from the private sector compounds the challenge to build the government workforce of the future. These factors, and the ever-present risk of a bad fit between the employee and the job, leave HR a narrow margin of error.
Fortunately, the traditional approach to recruiting using standard criteria such as education level and work history, has given way to more sophisticated and accurate methods. Organizations can employ science-based solutions to identify candidates that are the right fit for the job, as well as the culture of the organization. Hiring managers can build a detailed profile of the ideal candidate, and through the use of analytics, identify quality candidates who most closely align with the role requirements.
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The difference technology makes
Yet, many government agencies still reflect the stereotype of a slow-moving organization burdened with layers of decision-making with outdated systems that are the result of years of under-investment in software, devices, and connectivity – leaving agencies with precisely the right system configurations to drive millennials away, rather than attract them.
But that challenge is actually an unparalleled opportunity. By investing in IT systems that will make your organization more tech savvy, you open the door to a generation of eager, willing employees who can take you the next step. By showing millennials that you’re trying to build a modern, tech-enabled organization, you nurture and build the loyalty that is the cornerstone of employee retention.
Tight budgets, tough choices
It won’t be easy. Public sector budgets are always limited, and there’s no sign that funding will open up anytime soon. But that’s all the more reason to stretch every dollar available to you to get the most impact.
The right technology investment gets you the system improvements and efficiencies you need, enables you to hire the right employees for the right jobs – ultimately building the workforce that will carry your organization into the future. Your organization and its future depend on making that investment with millennials in mind.