4 Tips for Recruiting Millennials in a Post-Boomer Government Landscape


We’ve all heard the scary numbers surrounding Baby Boomer retirements and millennial demographics: 33% of the government’s workforce became retirement-eligible in 2016,[1] and Gen X members will make up nearly half the workforce by 2020.[2] No one likes the sight of empty desks, so what can federal, state, and local governments do to recruit millennials and ensure their missions are carried out with the nation’s top young talent?

Reduce your time-to-hire

Government agencies have historically been slow to hire. But how bad is it? In 2010, the White House put out a memo calling for agencies to overhaul their hiring process so they can recruit “high-quality candidates efficiently and quickly.”[3] The President called for managers and supervisors to take on stronger leadership roles, with HR staff available to provide critical support. To shorten organizations’ long hiring times, the White House asked agencies to focus on:

  • Eliminating lengthy, essay-style applications
  • Allowing online résumé and cover letter submissions through simple, plain language processes
  • Increasing stakeholders’ participation in identifying desired skills and proactive planning for workforce growth and continuity

To support this initiative, the Office of Personnel Management rolled out an End-to-End Hiring Roadmap that same year, which reduced the hiring process from 120 days to 105; by 2012, the time span was brought down to 87 days.[4] They may need to make it shorter, though; millennials want to work, but like most job-seekers, they’ll take the first offer they like, rather than hold out nearly three months for a public sector offer.

Advertise your mission-oriented work

Millennials want their work to have meaning that contributes to something greater than themselves. Social responsibility is so important to them that 60% claim “sense of purpose” is part of the reason they chose their current employers.[5] Harness their desire for meaningful work by highlighting that in government, every agency has a mission dedicated to the betterment of its constituents. Contrast that with the private sector, whose decisions are often profit-based and shareholder-driven. By accepting a position in government, millennials will not just be serving the community around them, but they will also be doing it with like-minded employees who share their passion for creating change.

Create meaningful career paths

Millennials have a reputation of being impatient in their career growth – they average 6.2 career paths by age 26,[6] and one industry analyst noticed a high level of turnover inside of two years when companies didn’t create a career development plan for millennials.[7]

Government agencies need to be more proactive in fleshing out development plans for their workforce. Stakeholders can get insight into employees’ long term goals during the recruiting process and through performance reviews. Once a path is mapped out, as a best practice, managers should strategically deliver training courses that prepare their team to take their desired next steps.

For more research that highlights’ millennials’ professional aspirations, check out the Career Trends Report.

Highlight your non-monetary perks

Government agencies are often hamstrung when it comes to offering expensive perks, but with a little creativity, they can create a thriving culture centered on the free or low-cost rewards that are important to millennials. Perks drive productivity by allowing the office to feel less like ‘work.’ Among younger workers, 77% say that flexible work hours would make them more productive.[8] Leverage this as a recruiting tool to gain access to top talent who feel productivity shouldn’t be limited to a 9-5 schedule that was created 130 years ago[9] and bears little resemblance to the needs of the workforce in the digital era.

Also, offer working from home/remote work as an option; millennials value work-life balance more than prior generations do. In an oDesk study, 92% of millennials say they want to work remotely and 87% want to work on their own clock.[10] While agencies may be hesitant to compromise on traditional office life, Gallup actually found that remote workers logged more hours and were more engaged.[11] If you offer this (or plan to), showcase it as a way to attract qualified younger workers.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/wave-of-retirements-hitting-federal-workforce/2013/08/26/97adacee-09b8-11e3-8974-f97ab3b3c677_story.html

[2] http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/executive-development/custom-programs/~/media/DF1C11C056874DDA8097271A1ED48662.ashx

[3] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-memorandum-improving-federal-recruitment-and-hiring-process

[4] http://federalnewsradio.com/hiringretention/2014/03/opms-focus-in-hiring-reform-shifting-from-speed-to-quality/

[5] http://fortune.com/2015/03/26/3-things-millennials-want-in-a-career-hint-its-not-more-money/

[6] http://fortune.com/2015/03/26/3-things-millennials-want-in-a-career-hint-its-not-more-money/

[7] http://www.forbes.com/sites/karlmoore/2014/10/02/millennials-work-for-purpose-not-paycheck/#547f7a7b5a22

[8] https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-death-of-the-9to5-why-well-all-work-flex-schedules-soon

[9] http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-08-14/entertainment/ct-biz-0815-work-advice-huppke-20110814_1_dolly-parton-shift-workday

[10] http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2013/12/16/10-ways-millennials-are-creating-the-future-of-work/#67f05ba11a59

[11] http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2013/12/16/10-ways-millennials-are-creating-the-future-of-work/#67f05ba11a59

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Julie Chase

Not going to happen. VetPref blocks them out every time. Millenials are not sitting by the phone for 105 days or even 87 days.