Take Time to Reach Out and Mentor Someone


Many discussions recently have centered on the tremendous loss of experience facing the government as thousands of the Baby Boomer generation reach their retirement from the government workforce. Additional conversations have expressed concerns over the inexperience and work ethic that the “millennial” replacements may or may not bring with them.

Being one of those “boomers” that decided to retire from the civil service, it was my pleasure for my final years as a senior manager of a department to experience the generational conversion firsthand. The millennials brought to our department a fresh and exciting viewpoint. It was rewarding to see the energy and knowledge those new personalities brought to the workforce in action.

While progress was made in several of our approaches to conversion from lecture based training to hands-on skilled based initiatives, there remains in our agencies an entrenched impediment to true empowerment for our entire workforce in their ability to own their work. There is a misconception generating an environment of mistrust driving a wedge between our generations in the workplace. This flaw is a fear of loss of control that is felt by those first and second line supervisors accustomed to directing vice leading employees. The false feeling of abdication of power engulfs the work environment, thus stifling out innovation and worker ownership. A continuation of this form of status quo management will result in limiting the efforts to improve organizational effectiveness in our agencies.

For the past three months I have been able to observe and interact with a group of recently hired federal workers. This group of 28 men and women were students in my Quality Management class taught at the local community college as part of the Apprentice academic training for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. As part of our class, we had several great discussions concerning the expectations and goals of the students at the onset of their careers.

These ambitious and eager individuals have many of the goals that thousands of civil servants preceding them desired during their careers. You hear many of the same attributes expressed by this new workforce of security, dedication, service, and patriotism from the newly hired that those retiring demonstrated. It is not coincidental that this similar story has played out through time with every passing generation. The excitement and drive of all emerging generations is to be more effective and efficient than those preceding them. Likewise, it is the aspiration of those being replaced to leave an environment for the new generation to be successful.

It is important to remember because of the large number of retirees and new hires today that a sense of urgency must occur to enable the best transition possible. In the conversations with the class of new employees previously mentioned, I urged them to seek out in their work locations the “go-to” people in the shipyard. The “go-to” people are those experienced and knowledgeable workers who have the interest of the workplace and mission of their activity as a priority.

I would encourage any of you reading this blog to consider becoming the “go-to” person for those needing them at your site. Individuals filling these roles must shed all concerns with loss of control. In its place make your priority to empower our new workforce with proper leadership and knowledge sharing. I ask all of you to realize the importance of your role in this effort of organization cultural change and mission. The positive nature of the group of new civil servants attending my class convinced me that the future is bright.

We have a dynamic and upbeat group of new employees joining the ranks of the civil service. It is imperative that those of us that are experienced and knowledgeable mentor them to be successful. Please take time, reach out and mentor someone today!

Darryl Perkinson 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.

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Alexa McKenna

Great post Darryl! I think a mentorship problem could be a great solution to help ease the government brain drain that’s about to happen. I know as a millennial, I’d love to have more one-on-one career coaching with a boomer because there’s so much to be learned!

Darryl Perkinson

Alexa: Thanks for the comment! While I would love to see proactive and organized programs I highly encourage our experienced coaches to reach out whether a program exist or not. Again thanks for the comments and if I can answer questions for you do not hesitate to ask.

Mariah Bastin

Thanks for pointing this out! I know mentors were very crucial (and still are) to my personal and professional development! It is a nice cycle to continue, but it is indeed a commitment for all parties involved!