One perplexing problem is how to rebuild plummeting trust in government among the all important millennial demographic, also known as Generation Y. This generation will ultimately comprise a majority of the U.S. labor force, yet too many of these young people appear apathetic to public service.
In fact, Gen Y’s trust in government has fallen to new lows, according to recent national polling by the Harvard University Institute for Politics.
- “The Institute’s spring poll shows 18- to 29- year-olds’ trust in public institutions at a five-year low – and their cynicism toward the political process has never been higher,” says Harvard Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson.
- Harvard Institute of Politics Polling Director John Della Volpe observes: “It’s been clear for some time now that young people are growing more disillusioned and disconnected from Washington. There’s an erosion of trust in the individuals and institutions that make government work.”
Uncle Sam needs millennials to fill jobs and bring valuable new skills to public service. Millennials need jobs because their collective unemployment rate is more than double that of the entire nation.
So why the gaping disconnect?
Some reported reasons why millennials are indifferent to working in government are based on a confluence of factors including, but not limited to, the following:
- An antiquated and inflexible bureaucratic work culture.
- An overly cumbersome hiring process.
- Not enough focus on innovation and experimentation.
- Too much of a “punch the clock” management mentality.
Ask a Millennial…
In order to further address this topic I went directly to the source. I reached out to multiple millennials. Here’s what two of them had to say:
On Twitter @AskAMillennial says:
- “Messaging to Millennials has to be clear, concise and uncluttered – we live in a world of short attention spans and 140 characters. The government seems to do anything but that.”
Ryan Arba, a GovLoop member and employee for the State of California, says:
- “Most jobs in government today are organized around a Time & Activity framework. Government leaders should consider reframing their positions toward a Tour of Duty model. For example, instead of marketing your job opening as a set of activities that are completed on a daily/weekly basis, the job could be reframed as a 1-2 year project with a measurable outcome.”
New Strategies Needed
While current recruitment methods may be working to some extent, it should be obvious by now that more refined strategies are needed to show millennials why government is a good fit for them.
Mika Cross, an award-winning workplace transformation strategist and work/life thought leader, recommends the following:
- “Find the message that best communicates why Gen Y workers will fall in love with your agency, your mission and your workplace. What’s the one reason why you get up every day and put your best foot forward?”
- “That’s the message you need to convey using a myriad of platforms — social media and outreach that connects with schools and universities across the country. Find current feds who can serve as ambassadors for public service.”
Cross, who currently works for OPM as a Presidential Management Council Interagency Fellow, further suggests:
- “Outreach targeted to the parents and families of millennials is equally important to showcase the flexible and supportive workplace programs that are in place to support what this generation values: family, community and social connections.”
She advises federal agencies to avail themselves to the online HR services OPM offers in order to increase millennial hiring.
From Outside-In to Inside-Out
In essence, public sector agencies need to better showcase themselves to young people and maximize social media outreach to enhance engagement.
Millennials and college career counselors need to be more aware of agency internships, fellowships, honor programs, and other avenues for young people to get their feet in the door of government – such as OPM’s Pathways program.
Lastly, Gen Y needs to be persuaded that, despite their distrust of government, they can make much more positive change in the public sector from the inside-out compared to the outside-in.
NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public or private sector employer, organization or related entity.
David Grinberg is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.