Millennials: Talent Quest within the Federal Workforce

Millenials in the Federal Government Workforce

How can the federal workforce improve on its ability to attract qualified, enthusiastic and motivated talent? This critical question is one so many of the federal human capital management leaders and teams that we speak to are struggling to answer.

Millennials may be the key factor in this quest. Millennials make up roughly 20% of the federal workforce. Federal agencies need to look at potential shifts in the workforce to ensure that their agency is not affected by significant talent deficits.

Seismic changes are coming to the federal workforce. It’s been a rocky beginning to 2019, with many within the federal government craving the opportunity to get back to their daily tasks and be recognized for their hard work, as they help their agencies achieve their missions. The federal government shutdown is just one of the obstacles federal agencies are facing. Human capital leaders are looking at a large percentage of their current workforce poised to retire. In 2018, it was reported that 14 percent of federal employees were eligible to retire, according to data provided by the Office of Personnel Management. In five years, that is expected to jump to 30 percent. With the growing numbers of the federal workforce eligible to retire, it is clear that the pursuit of widening the talent pool is a priority for HR managers.

With the recent shutdown, HR managers will be looking at an added challenge. Four federal shutdowns within 12 months, and the most recent one lasting longer than anyone expected, will create a vacuum of talent. Many of those looking at their pending retirement are planning to do so as soon as they are eligible. Conversely, those who sought the stability and career possibilities within the federal workforce are second-guessing potential federal job opportunities.

Why is it critical that the federal workforce look to the Millennials?

Currently, 35% of the federal workforce is made up of the Baby Boomer Generation (those born between 1946-1964). When this numerically substantial group retires, its members will be taking with them a wealth of job knowledge. Without someone to pass this information along to, the workforce will struggle to find the right balance. Within the US federal service, just 7% of the federal government employee base is under the age of 30. We can compare this low number to other countries and see this is a global issue. Canada has 10% of their civil service younger than 30. Australia reports 11%. The United Kingdom civil service employees below the age of 30 tops out at 13%.

With the changing demographics, Millennials will become the mainstay for the current workforce within the public and private sector. That has them working alongside the Gen X’ers (born between the mid-1960s and the 1980s). The Gen Xers are established in their careers and have experience and seniority within the workforce. The Gen Xers make up 43% of the federal workforce. However, the affects of the number of recent shutdowns may have Gen Xers looking for second career possibilities, potentially adding to the talent drain. The Gen Xers and Millennial workforce percentages, ideally, should balance out so those eligible to retire can mentor and provide career insight to the younger generations. The vast talent vacancy, projected by those eligible for retirement and those seeking second career opportunities, will be difficult to fill without attracting qualified candidates from the younger generations.

Who will take the place of those retiring and continue the call to service?

As we look at the percentages within the total federal workforce, human capital leaders are looking to secure a stable workforce by recruiting Millennials (born from 1985-2000). These talented minds have never known a world without the internet. Smartphones were a personal staple before they ever thought of different ways to connect. They have been chatting online and via video chats with classrooms around the world, all within the safety of their neighborhood classrooms, since elementary school. The Millennial generation is a tech-savvy, purpose-seeking, global-thinking group that wants to feel it is making a difference.

What do Millenials need in their career within federal service?

Millennials crave flexibility and a significant work-life balance. This quest for balance does not mean that they are unwilling to work hard. They have grown up seeing their parents sandwiched between caring for elder parents and children. Those parents were always feeling like they were pulled between work, eldercare and caring for their families. The Millennials know that with the dawn of the internet, work hours have shifted, as the internet is open 24/7. So they have adapted to be able to deliver the best work product possible, even if it does not meet within the 9-5 office hours, because they need to balance their personal requirements as well as their professional achievements.

Millennials also desire a job where they feel they are contributing and making a difference. They are more connected when they are engaged with the mission and have ownership of a project. They have seen how a simple call to action can go viral in today’s connected world and make grassroots change within society. Knowing the power of that simple act, they are driven to know that their career path is one filled with promise. The federal workforce fulfills that desire to make a difference. Millennials can find strength in the collective efforts of public service that provides essential programs to local communities and addresses national priorities.

Millennials are also the most diverse generation we have ever seen. They not only believe in diversity and inclusion; they expect it. Having been open to the world via the internet and interconnectivity, they know that they are not alone. Their career goals are balanced with a growing culture of inclusion and diversity. They choose to work where the workforce is a reflection of themselves.

How can the federal workforce attract the Millennial generation?

The elements that are career-critical for the Millennials are already integrated within the federal workforce platform. Millennials value job satisfaction, flexibility in their work environment, opportunity to demonstrate leadership and growth, and a diverse, inclusive community. In the recent  2018 FEVS (Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey), the federal workforce has seen a slight increase in accountability, mission achievements and leadership development, employee engagement and work-life balance. These are certainly factors that Millennials desire. These key elements only enhance the career potential within federal service. The Millennial motivated by the possibilities within the federal mission and service to their community on a local, national and global level will be attracted to a career within the federal agencies. That assumes the shutdown does not have a lasting impact on the appeal of working for the federal government.

Now, it is up to human capital leaders to push for the quality advances to attract a vibrant talent pool. Talent management should reach more potential career-focused applicants.  Advances in human capital management can be enhanced by streamlining the process of recruiting, onboarding, and improved employee engagement.  

A successful federal government talent model includes reaching those Millennials needed to fill the talent gap. In an effort to bridge the void from the departure of Baby Boomers and low numbers of Millennial applicants, it is vital to connect these generations for success within the federal workforce. It will take a collaborative effort between talent management systems, dedicated human capital resource team members and a committed mission-focused workforce.

Connect with Acendre’s team to learn about our HR solutions for the US Federal Government and help you on your journey to find a balanced workforce model through HR software.

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