October 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm #144259
There has been a lot of talk – especially at places like govloop – about millenials in the workforce and how they integrate (or don’t) with aging federal managers and staff. In my experience it’s very office and federal manager specific. With budget cuts also cutting federal benefits and continuing hiring freezes, more “aging” federal workers are likely to leave in coming years, further increasing the number of new, younger workers in federal offices.
Two national defense university professors recently gave advice to federal managers – a few of their tips were: “encourage them to offer social media strategies to connect government workers and the citizens they serve”, allow them to “help build recruiting, retention and mentoring programs for other millennials”, and “involve them in re-engineering projects to increase transparency and collaboration across organizational boundaries.”
Agree or disagree? Have other thoughts to share?
October 21, 2011 at 8:22 pm #144311
Tangential to this discussion: why not use the same tips mentioned above to involve retired Federal workers in an alumni program? Instead of having the lifetime of experience, judgment, and skills walk out the door and become lost, why not plan ways to still tap into the creativity and knowledge of retired Federal workers? Retired Federal workers would probably serve better as mentors now that they don’t have to compete with the younger Federal workers.
October 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm #144309
I believe the millenials, will rejoice in the day when us boomers retire. Just as much as the boomers couldn’t wait until the “silent generation”, retired. Not sure about other fed agencies, but in DoD, regulations, policies, processes, directives are the order of the day. No generation was more innovative and expressive than the boomers. We had high ideals and were willing to do what we could to implement them. While the “silent generation” towed the government line (i.e. the gov is always right), the boomers were ready to change things. Oh yeah. Then reality hit in the 70’s, especially the 80’s & 90’s, when “downsizing” and BRACing was in full steam. We had to “sell out” and become part of the machine in order to survive as a government employee. The rules, regs, policies, processes and directives became ingrained in our brains. We forced ourselves into technology knowing that it would save us as we barrelled headlong into retirement. For a few breif moments light bulbs flickered in our monotone brains and we started “innovating” and asking for technological updates/upgrades that would not only promote efficiency, it would provide the customer service deserved by those who rely on us. Sadly the door slammed upon the advent of 9/11. The remaining “silent generation”, closed the lid on technology for it’s workers touting the “loose lips sink ships” anthem rearing it’s ugly head from a bygone era. Now that the millenials have arrived on the scene, all fresh-faced, out of college, or out of the military they bring with them the “newness” of technology and they not only know the latest/greatest, they require a scant bit of training. My eyes opened wide! Wow….then I realized as they asked, “Where is your digital sender/multi-function device?” Surely you jest I said. “Yeah, I want to fax from my desktop.” Er, no, I said, not allowed. “Why?” Security reasons, I responded. “sigh”, came the response. As for “re-engineering projects to increase transparency & collaboration across organizational boundaries”, I wish them luck. DoD deals in blue, green, and polka-dot dollars, and three or four shall never meet or cross. As in my own organization, this dept handles apples, this dept handles oranges, this department handles pears, this department handles pineapples and a fruit salad cannot be made within your own department until “all the fruits” have 5 days to complete the process. According to the policy/directive/process, of course. See Directive ABCDAMIN 5.6a para. 4, part c.
October 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm #144307
Bill that is actually a pretty clever idea. I assume there are not any current mentor programs that work like this?
October 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm #144305
Thank you. I don’t know if such programs exist. I bet some informal programs do but I haven’t heard of any formal programs for retired Feds.
October 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm #144303
Fed “Programs” = $$$ We are in a belt-tightening mind-set. Unless the “alumni” “volunteer”, what’s the other alternative? There is a program coming about called Pathways. This program is designed to recruit, retain the next gen of the federal workforce. However, keep in mind there are vet groups out there who are making sure “vets” go to the top of the list, including those who are millenials.
October 25, 2011 at 11:59 am #144301
I love the way we seem to skip over Gen X in these discussions.
I’ve come to believe that essentially we all want some of the same things: interesting work, developmental opportunities, flexibility in how and when we do our work, fair compensation, recognition and feedback. Good managers adapt to the team they have at hand.
October 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm #144299
I love this idea. In our informal GL mentor program we are testing (50 matches), we have a number of retired feds.
I think the retired workforce is such an opportunity to leverage. In my own personal experience, my retired mother informally mentors a few new teachers and just loves it
October 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm #144297
@Melissa, I agree with you. As a manager, I focus on the talents and gifts people have and exploit them. I am not particularly interested generational gaps or stereotyping I see and read about. I want to know what unites people and makes a strong team.
October 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm #144295
I’d add another one – We all want to have impact. See that the work we do matters and has impact
October 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm #144293
That’s because Gen X is too busy running things to take part in these discussions? 🙂
October 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm #144291
Mentorship programs are a great idea. In my personal experience it’s tough to get current managers to participate – they’re typically in a busy season of life and have little time both inside and outside of the office. I imagine more retirees might participate – forums like GovLoop are changing the dynamic in such a way that rather than “losing” the brain trust of retirees we can keep them engaged, online or in person.
October 25, 2011 at 6:10 pm #144289
What do you think of the recommendations made – would millenials really respond to managers asking them to offer social media strategies to apply to their jobs? I sometimes dislike the notion that as the youngest person I’m destined to be the social media wonk – it’s a passion, absolutely, but I can also bring other skills to the big kids’ table.
October 25, 2011 at 7:54 pm #144287
That’s the problem with stereotyping by generations. I faced the same issues when I was a young Gen-Xer where I was sought after for my computer skills but ignored when I offered expertise on project management. I often thought of professing complete ignorance of computers just so I could do other stuff rather than fix yet another spreadsheet printing problem.
I suppose the best route is to volunteer for the non-social media projects that no one else wants and demonstrate your skills that way. I did that with CFC which gave me a chance to really demonstrate my project management skills.
October 25, 2011 at 11:06 pm #144285
The generational divide is an issue b/c millennials expect high technology, rapid advancement and a lot of mentoring (as a group). Vs federal managers contend with limited technology/training, slow advancement, no budget and are expected to work and manage simultaneously. Recipe for a huge disconnect.
October 26, 2011 at 12:33 am #144283
I find a lot of the “generational” stuff a bit misleading. Not intentionally so, though. Rather, it encourages seeing thigs as having more uniformity than they probably do in reality. Some kinds of experiences can be more typical of some periods of time than others. I think back to a very moving documentary I heard some years ago about people who came of age at the start of WWII, and young couples would fall in love after an evening at the USO before he shipped out, only to end a few days later in notification of a death. People ARE affected by historically-linked events at formative times in their lives. Still…:
– if your formative years occur during that period when those kinds of events are more influential for someone of your age,
– If you happen to be exposed to those sorts of events by virtue of your walk of life, location, socio-economic status or other factors,
– if you have the sort of temperament and personality that makes you more likely to be influenced by those sorts of events,
– if you happen to be steeped in a social milieu where many others are influenced by those events,
….then you may end up being affected by those events and “typical of that generation”. But plenty of folks aren’t, and plenty of folks can find themselves in current circumstances where, whatever the impact of “those generational things” may be, it simply doesn’t show up at the moment, or maybe even ever.
So, when we start talking about “managing millenials”, is that any different than simply discussing how to manage someone with this or that sort of personality? And if it’s not, then why attribute uniformity to people who can be very different? Why not look at it with the view that “people who face THESE circumstances at THIS time can be a little more like THAT”, and respond accordingly? If the circumstances facing someone in their 50’s are shared by other employees in their 20’s, then shouldn’t you be managing with respect to the circumstances, and not with respect to the generation?
October 26, 2011 at 1:38 am #144281
Excellent point! I grew up during the 80s but I am sure I was influenced by events differently because I grew up in a small town in Kentucky than someone who grew up in New York City or in San Diego. Also, being part of the “nerd” culture certainly influenced me differently than someone who was a “jock.”
Actually, this brings up a related question: how many things actually influence a person’s personality?
October 26, 2011 at 2:06 am #144279
Folks like Glen Elder ( http://www.unc.edu/~elder/ ) have made a career out of studying people who grew up in the Great Depression, and the number of twists and turns and caveats and qualifications that resulted in people who fit some sort of profile of a depression-era person…or don’t, is immense.
On the other hand, there CAN be widespread phenomena that impact on a large chunk of people growing up in a certain era. Just think about the shift in how much people worked part-time at the same time as attending high school or university during the 60’s, compared to the late 70’s and 80’s, and how much disposable income each of those respective cohorts had. As a big city 60’s kid, the only people I knew who worked part-time during high school for more than maybe a couple hours a week (babysitting, newspaper routes, etc.) were people with a car habit. My kids’ generation don’t know anyone who works less than maybe 10hrs a week. Of course, I compare that to Korean kids of the same age group, whose motto is “4 pass, 5 fail” (referring to how many hours of nightly sleep you can permit yourself if you plan on passing the university entrance exam), and clearly the “birth cohort” difference in experiences and accompanying attitudes and traits, is relegated to one culture but not the other.
Then there are people like NIH’s Paul Costa, who would take the view that personality is fairly consistent across one’s life, fairly heritable, and generally a little dented by experience but not radically changed by it. Of course if you know anyone who is a Holocaust survivor or has endured any other comparable sort of extreme inhuman experience, such as rape, near-death experience, violent muggings, direct 09/11-related trauma, military service-related PTSD, etc., there is little doubt that people ARE changed by events in irrevocable ways. The empirical question is “How much does it take to do that, either in terms of intensity, or duration?”.
Finally, some folks will tell you that many aspects of personality simply change with age, cumulative experience, and the contexts that people find themselves in at various life stages. You can easily imagine some folks becoming more optimistic with age as they successfully get past this hurdle and that, and reflect on how things always seem to work out, with other folks becoming more pessimistic with age as they encounter disappointment after disappointment.
Bottom line: Personality is a highly multidetermined thing. Biology plays a role. Discrete events play a role. Cumulative experience plays a role. Health plays a role. Culturally distinctive experience plays a role. Socio-economically distinctive experience plays a role. Peers play a role. Location plays a role. Many will even say work or life roles (e.g., parent/nonparent, partner/single, “working stiff”, “boss”, etc.) plays a role.
So you can see why I’m more than a little hard to persuade that “people born in these years will be like this“.
October 26, 2011 at 11:53 am #144277
@Mark, An excellent analysis and I agree completely.
October 26, 2011 at 11:53 am #144275
Thanks Mark, very insightful. I’ll go you one more. Extreme event response such as you mentioned can be shaped. You don’t have to be a victim if you choose not to be one. I heard a former POW from Iraqi Freedom state that their response to extreme adversity was to grow from it and become more resilient. I learned from that statement. Choosing to be victimized by events outside your control can, I believe, set you up for another round of life disappointment with your “fate”. Any minor event can then upset your personal world as you draw inward from fear. Or you can choose to learn and grow to resist further attack through strength. I suppose you could call it “reverse PTSD”. As a first responder, counselor, mentor, friend, spouse, whatever, you have immense personal power to affect someone’s response to an event. How catastrophic it is perceived is shaped by whether you help that person respond negatively as a victim or positively as a rational human being.
So, in context with the rest of the thread, how do we respond to generational “differences”? Do we take the stereotypical stance and assume the 20-somethings are the social-media salvation of the department? Or do we reject age-discrimination and treat each other as rational human beings with an impending event and help shape the corporate response to set them up for success? We can choose.
October 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm #144273
Actually, I’m not sure this is an absolute truth. They might want it, but I think most of the millennials I know recognize that wanting and getting are two different things. Besides, who wouldn’t want great technology, access to training, rapid opportunities for advancement? Most Gen X and Baby Boomers want those things, too. I actually have more opportunities for advancement and training than I did in the private sector, plus I get to do work with a purpose beyond turning a profit.
This discussion is nothing new and I suspect it has more to do with stage in life than with generational cohort. I remember when everyone wondered how to manage Gen X employees. Somehow we all figured it out. I enjoy working with people from all cohort groups. I do think there are generational differences but in my own personal interactions, I view them as the variety that adds spice to life rather than a divisional issue.
October 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm #144271
@Melissa, Right. Somehow we manage and move on. I consider these generational theories but I don’t believe they are absolute. I relate to people as individuals and appreciate that their gifts differ.
October 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm #144269
Well, without wishing to derail the topic onto an extended discussion about the basis of personality, folks like personality theorist Paul Costa would suggest that individuals react to events based on their stable personality traits. For instance, his work has shown that the so-called “mid-life crisis” tends to be more common in those for whom every life-stage transition (puberty, marriage, parenthood, etc.) elicitted panic and self-doubt.
In case you’re interested, I always found the work of Aaron Antonovsky a fascinating quarter twist on what it is that makes people resilient to extreme events that might otherwise affect personality in an enduring way.
However….we now return to our regularly scheduled programming, now in progress. 🙂
October 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm #144267
October 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm #144265
Agreed, Melissa. As a Gen X’er, I often try to make this very point: we all want the same things. Let’s put in place a culture and performance management structure that supports it.
October 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm #144263
October 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm #144261
Those postings are the result of thousands in tuition and lost income, so I’m glad I can extract something of use from it!
Not familiar with that author or book, but many thanks for the referral. I’ll check it out.
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