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5 Ways to Attract The Next Generation of Public Servants

This is the third post in our GovLoop May Blog series, exploring how to break down silos in government. Our first post focused on the “trusted leader” and the traits required for leadership across government. Our second post explored collaboration strategies on your team. This week, we’ll look out to the future, and how to recruit the next generation of public servants.

On GovLoop, there is quite a bit of information about careers, career advancement and recruitment. I’ve looked through some of the more recent posts, and found the list below to be some common themes and strategies as to how to best recruit the next generation of public sector employees:

1 – Make it Easy

One of the big challenges to recruitment is that in order to get a job in government, the process is long, tiresome and often ambiguous. Far too often applications are sent in, there is no follow up and impossible to track the status of your application. With stiff competition from the non-profit and private sector, government needs to have a very easy and intuitive application process.

2 – Use Multiple Channels

There are a lot of great examples of agencies using creative methods to recruit employees to government service. A solid web presence is critical, and use multiple channels across the web. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube are all critical to recruitment strategies, and important to attract talent. Since people are out searching for information about agencies, agencies need to be sure people are finding the right message. One federal agency that often comes to mind is the IRS. Take a look at IRS Recruiter Julie’s blog, as she often acknowledges all the different recruitment programs the IRS has to offer.

3 – Incentives

To attract the next generation, government is going to be forced to think differently about incentives for employees. This is not just through monetary incentives, but also about the kinds of opportunities government can offer to employees. This includes everything from mentorship programs, continuing education, leadership opportunities, and clear tracks for advancement. Take a look a post I wrote a few months ago on ways agencies can attract and retain top talent.

4 – Offer Flexibility

Flexibility will be key for the next workforce, providing employees with the right tools and needs to help employees work where they want to work. Telework opportunities will allow government to attract more talent, and a flexible schedule will entice people to consider public sector employment.

5 – Use New and Emerging Tech

There is a lot of emerging tools that students are now accustomed too, especially with cloud and collaborative tools. The next generation of employees will expect these services to be available to them within the workplace, so it is critical that government continue to update and upgrade systems to help recruit talent into government.

Working for the government provides some great opportunities to do incredible work for your community, and in order to recruit a talented workforce of the future, government will have to adapt.

What are some of the ways government can help recruit talent into government? What are some of the challenges?

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10 Comments

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Profile Photo Terrence Hill

Great list Pat! These are all great for getting them in the door, but often the work itself, including the supervisor, can make or break the relationship with a new employee. If they aren’t given substantive, meaningful work or the supervisor either neglects or harasses them, we won’t keep the millenials. The focus of a lot of agencies is on attracting and recruiting millenials, but we need to give equal attention to retention and engagement strategies. Instead of exit interviews, we need to do annual “stay” interviews.

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Profile Photo Debra L Fryar

I completely agree with Terry. Keeping new recruits is harder than recruiting them. In the agency I worked in, all new recruits started out in an area that was very structured and rule oriented. New recruits were trained for 2 years to follow the procedures, do not deviate, do not think outside the box. All was was very standardized. The idea was to teach them the core work of the agency and then move them out into other areas. By the time they got moved out, they were either board to death and quit, or had been trained not to think for themselves and could not do work which required more self motivation and innovation thinking.

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Profile Photo Kat Edwards

These are some great tips! I would like to add something to number 2 – regarding the use of multiple channels. I always encourage hiring managers to look at special hiring authorities that make it easier to bring on talented and qualified candidates. For instance, returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and Peace Corps staff have a special hiring status called noncompetitive eligibility (NCE). NCE allows an agency to hire a candidate, who meets the minimum qualifications, regardless if they are the most competitive candidate or not.

Peace Corps is a great example because the agency has a plethora of free tools to help hiring managers connect with talented, experienced, and passionate public servants who can be hired without the hassle of a USAJOBS.gov posting. Peace Corps has a dedicated staff to help hiring managers connect with status candidates, visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/hire for more info. Peace Corps is also hosting a Federal NCE Roundtable discussion on June 6th at Peace Corps headquarters (remote access will be available). Event information can be found here: https://www.govloop.com/events/noncompetitive-eligibility-roundtable.

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Profile Photo Carla Voorhees

I would argue (as a contractor, and a desperate govie) that actually the problem stems from the GS level of jobs that are offered, at least at my agency. The only job openings I see are 12s and above, and even with a master’s degree (MBA) I don’t qualify (GS-9 w/o 1 year of equivalent experience, or a GS-11 with depending on the job function). That’s really frustrating as someone who is young and energized and wants with everything to work in the government, not just as a contractor.

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Profile Photo Dustin Haisler

Hey Pat, great post! I also agree with Terry, that the work itself is often the deal breaker. I’ve seen success with employees that are given a certain amount of creative freedom to explore and experiment (similar to Google’s 80/20 time) and find new ways to do their job. Millennials crave the freedom to make things happen without filing out 20 forms to do so.

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Profile Photo Patrick Fiorenza

Thanks everyone for all the great comments – keep them coming!

All great insights, but I think Terry touched a great point that I overlooked – management…I can say I’ve had all sorts of different kinds of managers and the ones that allowed me the creative freedom (like Dustin acknowledges) are the ones I have really enjoyed working with – and think some of my stronger work as well.

I also really like the idea of doing “stay” interviews. Would be a great way to engaged and help develop a career, so you are investing in your employees and ready to help them advance.

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Profile Photo Andy Lowenthal

My favorite kind of blog post, Pat.

I also agree that Terry’s idea of annual (or more frequent) “stay” interviews is a great one. I’ve left jobs before wondering if I’d had the opportunity to discuss my discontents before I started job hunting if things would have been different.

I’d also like to propose an idea for HR/IT collaboration (thinking about points #4 and #5 above). What if flexibility extended beyond just working hours to actually include workspace and work equipment? What if tech budgets were allocated directly to the new employee for the purchase of whatever they need to be most productive? New hires could sit down with a tech geek in the CIO shop, discuss requirements and preferences, and then work together to find discounted government pricing. If I walked in and could pick out a small roundtable, two chairs, and a MacBook Air, I’d never leave the office.

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