Millennials in Government – How to Attract the Next-Generation Workforce


Written in collaboration with Celeste O’Dea, Director, Public Sector Advanced Human Capital Management Program at Oracle

Government agencies today are facing unprecedented workforce challenges. The twin realities of the “Silver Tsunami” Baby Boomer retirement wave combined with a need to attract and retain new talent – especially sought-after Millennials – has created pressing new urgencies for HR organizations. As a recent report on the effect of Boomer retirements from the Government Finance Officers Association notes, “Baby Boomers may have delayed retirement due to the economic downturn, but it’s inevitable as you can’t delay aging”.  The focus now has to be on attracting the next generation of workers to government, but how do you do it?”

Enter the Digital Workforce Era

By 2025, Millennials (born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) will make up about 75% of the global labor force, Deloitte tells us in their Millenial Digital Survey. To meet citizen demands and the expectations of leadership, understanding their perceptions and influences is vital. Most of them have grown up with instant access to Facebook, Google, and Amazon. When they start new jobs, their expectations of the systems and tools they will use are already hardwired from their experiences as members of a digitally native generation. Candidates and employees want a compelling work environment that provides a great experience, which includes their dealings with human resources.

Traditionally HR has delivered employee services based on standard processes that are accessible only in person or by phone during office hours. HR services weren’t designed to make employees enthusiastic about HR or reward them with an engaging experience. Instead of a model based on scale and efficiency, modern HR must be designed for effectiveness and convenience so that employees can choose when and how to engage. Employees want to choose the time, place, and channel to interact with HR. Being able to do this makes them enthusiastic about their next HR interaction, and feel that they work for an organization that understands how they want to get things done. Modern HR leaders can differentiate their organizations in the competition for talent by providing a consumer-grade experience for their candidates and employees.

High-value, talented individuals are savvy and have high work-life expectations. They want to know that they are positioned for success. When the workplace is driven by social interaction and optimized for connectivity on the go, employees will have the peace of mind of knowing they work on the cutting edge of operations for an organization that has their best interests in mind. Those who do not feel this way will explore their options. The demand for talented individuals has resulted in a highly competitive hiring environment, and even the hardest-working employees will start to look for new jobs very quickly if their current employers don’t deliver the experiences they are looking for

Three Qualities Government Leaders Should Learn From Millennials

A recent study published by Route Fifty, “Preparing for Tomorrow’s State and Local Government Workforce,” does a great job highlighting case studies and experiences from many jurisdictions across the country on how to attract Millenials. A particular section that caught our attention is where Scott Fadness, Mayor of Fishers, Indiana, says that government has a lot to learn about the entrepreneur mentality of the often maligned Millenial generation. The three qualities he refers to are:

  1. Pursuit of Passion:  Millennials are criticized for not accepting the way things have always been done. Employers may struggle to engage younger employees, and job performance may not meet expectations in antiquated corporate environments—unless employees feel a sense of purpose. Millennials are motivated by meaningful work and organizations they believe in. Passion and purpose are the new collective values.
  2. Risk-taking: Millennials celebrate entrepreneurism but aren’t creating new businesses in pace with previous generations. In this context, Millennials aren’t considered strong risk takers. They are fearless brainstormers of creative ideas and solutions. To some, out-of-the box thinking is a risk.
  3. Staying Connected. Millenials are known for being connected in social and technology contexts.  The concept of connection, being linked to a person, thing or idea, is an intangible quality that helps leaders understand complex issues and how so much of our world is interrelated today.


There really is no point recruiting and investing in top talent if organizations can’t hold on to the great people they already have. Hiring and retaining a high-performing workforce over the next 10 years will require improved focus on the quality of employees’ experiences and the tools they use every day at work.

While most leaders are quick to say their employees are the organizations most valuable asset, many are failing to provide HR teams with the tools they need to ensure the best workers are able to perform to their full potential.  This approach requires new thinking not only about technology but also entrenched business processes, and encouraging a culture of change. The talented, high achievers on whom organizations depend expect information they need to be instantly available, whenever and wherever they require it, from any device.

HR organizations and modern processes should be part of that evolution. While technology is certainly one part of the equation, today’s HR leaders also have an opportunity to think completely differently about the employee experience, from recruitment through retirement.

Franco Amalfi 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.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply