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For young feds is the pace of government change too slow?

Retaining and engaging young feds has been the drum beat in government for awhile now and will probably continue to be for the foreseeable future. 

But one of the main stumbling blocks for agency leaders has been the pace of government change. Millennials are quick to adopt new technologies and programs. But the government is not. So how can managers deal with that in-balance? Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. 

He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the pace of government change is speeding up a bit.

"All the uncertainty over the federal budget, the deep cuts are accelerating the pace of change. There really isn't an option," said Fox. 

Tips to Engage Young Feds

  1. Be as transparent as possible. Even when you don't know the answer, say that. Communication is key.
  2. Pay particular attention to what motivates millennials. It's usually not pay, but advancement and learning opportunities.
  3. Invite them to the conversation.
  4. Provide mentorship opportunities. Many people would want to be mentors they just have to be asked. They don't have to be formal programs, just time to converse.

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Tags: DorobekINSIDER, career, communications, human resources, leadership, millennials, project management

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Comment by Dale M. Posthumus on November 18, 2013 at 11:52am

These four points are fine, but are only a band-aid to what needs to happen. The hiring and firing process must improve significantly. The ability to enter, exit, and reenter the govt workforce must be significantly improved. Change is possible.

Change often starts at the state and local levels, IMHO. When I entered the Federal workforce, the dominant promotion system was the "old boys network". Our generation and those that followed said "no", and it changed, sometimes slowly, sometimes relatively quickly. Technology gives us an opportunity to improve, if we figure out how to use it properly. It significantly changed the way my agency gathered information, shared that information, analyzed the data, and distributed it to an ever-widening audience. I say, listen to new folks entering Govt. Don't just do what you have always done. The "best" program, process, office, regulation, law, etc., can always be made better.

Comment by Kaye Carney on February 22, 2013 at 2:23pm

To correct the record as stated, "Comment by Allen Sheaprd on February 14, 2013 at 11:40am (sigh)" pasted below: Your MAXIMO GIS was developed by the Department of Navy, US Fleet Forces Command, Facilities Engineering Department. Your retired Navy senior leader 'took' the program to the City.  I can verify that as I was the IM Analyst overseeing the development.  It is being used by Navy Region Mid-Atlantic currently.

 

 "Be careful what one wishes for" Learn cool stuff fast, learn cool stuff deeply, learn what not to do" Government does move slower. GovLoop Techies can be cutting edge. City of chesapeake was the first to do Maximo 7.1 install. First to connect Maximo with ESRI GIS for spacial. We are one of the biggest CSR users. Best of all we had time to do and learn. Governments use COTS packages so from the Techie side VM ware, Cloud, ORACLE, SQL 2012 are all there. Governments also have to be far more stable than business. Business can shut down or move. When bad stuff happens, government can not shut down nor relocate. We have to learn and document so when the internet goes down everyone can function without Google or the internet. Ever see a an army guy or gal go to Bing? No there are procedures and documentation providing answers should training fail. There is an ethical side as well. We are granted a monopoly over the citizens. Hence we have to be ready with proven technology. Fiscal cliff or not - we should not shut down, some of us can not shut down. A few of us should be "last man standing" Yes I wish the president had made civil service work "cool" Maybe next time. ."

 

Comment by Julie Chase on February 17, 2013 at 3:52pm

Right now, the door is slammed shut for "anyone" applying for a gov job.  With that said, young people, especially non vets, are now looking elsewhere.  I know a young man, college grad, two degrees, applied for a job in gov in Jan.  Job closed Jan 13.  Hasn't heard a word.  When this young man contacted the HRSC in Norfolk, he was told, "sorry, a hiring freeze has begun."  Ok, so now what is he supposed to do?  How long was he supposed to wait until someone contacted him to let him know.  Really?  What employer with any integrity does that?  I can certainly understand their frustration.  He said to me, "Why would the gov "OPEN" a position, get qualified candidates on a cert, then "bang", hiring freeze!  If I hadn't called and asked what was going on, I would've waited a long time."  Needless to say, he is looking elsewhere as are his friends.  Sad, really.  An email to the candidates, a letter, or phone call would have been the professional thing to do.

Comment by Samuel F Doucette on February 15, 2013 at 9:16am

Peter, what you said struck a chord with me from my process improvement perspective. First a little history. The Air Force has been actively doing process improvement since about 2006, when we were faced with a "perfect storm" of impending budget and manpower cuts with a wartime mission that still had to get done -- how I long for those days which in comparison to now seem like we were fat, dumb, and happy!  However, the Air Force process improvement efforts over the years haven't really taken off throughout the entire institution and my hunch is, too many of us reverted to old familiar ways of doing things because the platform wasn't burning hot enough or at least was burning hot somewhere else remote from us.  Well, I believe sequestration will be the really hot burning platform which will finally force the AF to embrace process improvement like never before. 

Comment by Peter Sperry on February 15, 2013 at 8:46am
Good news. The pace of change in the Federal government will begin accelerating in 2 weeks when sequestration goes into effect and take off exponentially 3 weeks later when those spending cuts are locked in with a continuing resolution. The reality of dealing with flat or declining spending authority will require rapid changes at a pace previously unimagined by most government employees.

This actually is very good news. Once we get past the initial hysteria, whining and grandstanding; government workers will be able to make convincing arguments for cutting through or eliminating much of the administivia red tape which drives up costs and frustration levels without adding any value. If, and only if, we. focus on producing quality results for an affordable price rather than constant complaining about "limited" budgets, we will be able to accomplish more in the next 15-20 years than thought possible in the previous 50.
Comment by Jeffrey Levy on February 14, 2013 at 11:10pm

Amelia, some things you said in your followup struck me.

First, I want you to know that I agree wholeheartedly we should strive for better.  I just don't want people to get burned out too quickly because things don't change on their expected schedule. I've learned to take a long view, not to settle, but to give myself time to see positive change.

Second, I agree with you that recognition matters. As a manager, I work hard to do just that.  If I can't give awards, I thank people as publicly as possible, I treat them to lunch, I help them move forward on their pet projects, etc.  In fact, doing those things is part of what makes managing fun.  It's not just about promotions, and I hope people get reinforcement in ways other than promotions.  I can't give out raises, but I can do a lot of other things.

Comment by Mark Hammer on February 14, 2013 at 1:20pm

1) Folks have been writing for a while now that NGOs present serious competition when recruiting young grads.  There are a number of reasons for that: hipper image, closer connection to the project and project beneficiaries, opportunity to see projects through to the end (a less common occurrence in government). And much of that is also a result of greater responsiveness and shorter chain of command.

2) Some of the impatience is, I feel, a byproduct of the tendency for initiatives to undergo a flurry of preparation and consultation, but ultimately grind to a halt before tangible concrete outcomes start to happen.  The prep work is thrilling and motivating, but driving at top speed with the wind in your hair, only to arrive at a prolonged red light, becomes all the more exasperating because of the stark contrast.  I'm inclined to think that most people, no matter their age or cohort, are quite tolerant of long time arcs, if something is happening across that time-arc, but much less tolerant if things hit a wall.  So, for me, the challenge is not to make things move faster, but to figure out how to make that wall more of a curb to step over.  Slowing down to pass through an intersection: not an issue.  Coming to a dead halt at a red light: de-motivating.

3) I have been railing on for a decade and more that there has been insufficient research on the role of earliest employment as a formative experience in shaping the workplace attitudes and expectations of new grads and entrants to the full-time workforce.  The "problem" can often be not the beliefs of those new public servants, but the fundamental incompatibility of the work contexts where they acquired those beliefs, and what is needed within government.

4) Don't count on all those retirements, Amelia.  Withdrawal from the labor force is gradually inching up in age for folks with post-secondary education, since the early 90's.  And as many here can likely attest, being launched into the workforce at 26 with a large debt-load is going to defer that point where one doesn't have to pay off loans or mortgages or family-life costs any more and can "just save", to much later in the lifespan.  Just because people are eligible for pension doesn't mean they can live off it to their satisfaction.  So you can expect to see a lot more white-haired people sticking around work longer.  A fascinating and provocative recent panel discussion with some high-power panelists on the broader topic can be found here:

http://www.brookings.edu/events/2012/12/07-working-longer

Comment by Bill McDermott on February 14, 2013 at 12:44pm

While I have to agree that the Federal government can be a fustrating place to work, if you expect things to happen quickly, but with proper leadership they can and do.  This affects all employees not ust the Millenials.  There are many organizations where change does happen, just not quickly for the most part.  As I wrap up my 38 yr career it was a little disheartening last month to hear that Treasury and Social Security were stopping check payments.  Disheartening because I have no idea why it took so loooong.  My first job 38 years ago was to support the Direct Deposit program, it's intent to make social security and other payments electronically, the first electronic payments were in 1975 when this was cutting edge, Treasury was leading the way at that time...however some thing must have happened in the intervening years.

Comment by Allen Sheaprd on February 14, 2013 at 11:40am

(sigh) "Be careful what one wishes for"  Learn cool stuff fast, learn cool stuff deeply, learn what not to do"  Government does move slower.

   GovLoop Techies can be cutting edge. City of chesapeake was the first to do Maximo 7.1 install. First to connect Maximo with ESRI GIS for spacial. We are one of the biggest CSR users. 

   Best of all we had time to do and learn. Governments use COTS packages so from the Techie side VM ware, Cloud, ORACLE, SQL 2012 are all there. 

   Governments also have to be far more stable than business. Business can shut down or move. When bad stuff happens, government can not shut down nor relocate. We have to learn and document so when the internet goes down everyone can function without Google or the internet. Ever see a an army guy or gal go to Bing? No there are procedures and documentation providing answers should training fail. 

    There is an ethical side as well. We are granted a monopoly over the citizens. Hence we have to be ready with proven technology. Fiscal cliff or not - we should not shut down, some of us can not shut down. A few of us should be "last man standing" 

   Yes I wish the president had made civil service work "cool" Maybe next time. 

Comment by Samuel F Doucette on February 14, 2013 at 11:10am
Amelia, I agree with much of what you say. When I supervised people, I definitely was in favor of recognizing hard and smart work. I also am concerned about the coming retirement bow wave when the Boomers retire in large numbers. As a process improvement person, I also agree that our hiring and recruiting processes need to be faster, more flexible, and more appealing to our target audience, which should be younger people. However, I also recognize that many of the constraints we live with are set by laws passed by our political masters. To the extent we can make fundamental process improvements within the legal framework, then I say let's go for it.

As for the fiscal craziness, I've never seen it this bad in my almost 16 yrs of service. Weathering this fiscal storm will require innovative thinking and collaboration, which is what the Millenials can bring to the table. I just hope we all have jobs when this is all over.

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