How to recruit and retain young people in government?

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by  Jeff S 7 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #135671

    Heather Krasna, MS
    Participant

    Hi folks,

    I’m writing a piece for a nationally-known news source about how to recruit and retain young people into government–with a special focus on “Gen Y”/Millenials (those under the age of 30 or so). Please comment– and tell me if you want to be quoted or not– on any of the following:

    1. What is the single most difficult thing about working in government as someone under the age of, say, 35 or 40?

    2. What was the most challenging (frustrating or difficult) part of the hiring process (as compared with the private or nonprofit sector)?

    3. What is the best thing about being a young(er) person in government?

    4. What drew you to public service?

    5. If you could suggest anything to higher management in government to help them attract and retain young people, what would it be?

  • #135701

    Jeff S
    Participant

    1. Kids today feel entitled and do not want to start in entry level jobs and work their way up. Entry level jobs in my agency are at the GS-5 level however college grads seem to think that they should start at GS-7 or 8. Since we regulate food plants the best people we hire usually are from workers inside a food processing facility not someone with a degree.

    2. The slow hiring process. If we found an individual who we wanted to hire the slow process tends to allow these individuals to find work elsewhere before we can get them onboard.

    3. Unlimited overtime at entry positions, Building annual and sick leave for later in life, Some ability to make a difference at an early age.

    4. Benefits and job security, Also enjoy the work very much in protecting consumers

    5. Having a college degree does not trump experience in the field.

  • #135699

    The best part of government work is knowing that you serve the greater good. On a financial level the benefit is that your dedication will ultimately provide you some career stability during turbulent times. So you are fulfilled spiritually/emotionally while also being sustained financially.

    For new recruits, the challenge is finding career advancement opportunities without disrupting the entrenched reward system in which seniority and being “a known quantity” counts significantly. There is also the reality that government organizations prize and prioritize recruits who have risked their lives to keep us safe – providing veterans with preference.

    If I had to give hiring authorities any advice about motivating young people to join government, it would be to provide an inspiring vision of the future state that we seek to create together, and show how the next generation fits into that vision. People don’t know much about the government generally, don’t understand where the opportunities are, don’t see how they fit in, and don’t know how to apply.

    It is a branding issue: Make a differentiated, relevant offer that the audience is aware of and that they trust.

  • #135697

    Sorry Heather – meant to add that if you would like to quote me I will need to get permission, even thoughi am representing only my own opinion, b/c I work in a public affairs capacity. Thanks.

  • #135695

    Elliot Volkman
    Participant

    Jeff you seem to be following the crowds opinion here. By no means do we feel special or entitled to magically climb the chain without experience or paying our dues. Not to mention I don’t know a single college grad who was able to simply acquire a position just based on their educational background. Many of us have gone through positions that don’t necessarily appeal to us. Further, our generation is entering a terrible market place for people without experience, causing them to take lower jobs that don’t require a college degree.

  • #135693

    Amelia Brunelle
    Participant

    I’d recommend emailing people at Young Government Leaders (younggovernmentleaders.org) as they’ve done some research on this

  • #135691

    Kristy Dalton
    Participant

    My advice on retaining young government staff is to focus on professional development and training opportunities. You can’t offer newbies top dollar, but the personal benefits realized through learning new technical and professional skills on the job are important. I always felt a stronger loyalty to my government employers who invested in developing my career.

    Ok to quote

  • #135689

    SteveWonder
    Participant

    Sick, tired of older age hiring bias in the public sector.

    Ms. Krasna’s article, like some authors, seems to aid, abet continuance of that illegal bias.

    Recruiting people over age 40 and Seniors needs to be addressed!

    They, too, are people, represent diversity, should be recruited to fill public sector jobs–and, ITS THE LAW.

    Am reminding Federal, state, local government HR personnel: Laws against age bias/discrimination in hiring are still in place and you cannot procederally nor unlawfully defeat them without lengthy legislative process and upsetting taxpayers/voters/citizens. Please!!! respect those anti-age bias statutes still on the books.

  • #135687

    Heather Krasna, MS
    Participant

    Thanks for all of your replies. I should add you can contact me directly about this (if you don’t want to write on this board) at heather at heatherkrasna dot com.

    Re: Steve, I wasn’t asking for ways to discriminate against protected classes. I was looking for ideas on attracting younger people, not ideas for NOT attracting/hiring older people. In fact, with the hiring process greatly emphasizing years of work experience and time-in-grade, I have found younger people have a much harder time getting hired by government than those with more experience.

  • #135685

    Alicia Mazzara
    Participant

    1. A) It can be difficult to advance past a certain point. Even when management wanted to promote people, hiring processes were very complicated, or maybe there is no clear ladder up. I don’t think young people shy away from entry-level jobs, but they are not going to stick around if they don’t see any advancement opportunities.

    B) I was lucky to work in an office with lots of other young people, but if it hadn’t been for that, I think I would have felt very isolated. Based on our feedback, managers began making an effort to connect other young people in the agency with each other through mixers and pairing new employees with mentors.

    C) I often found that my older colleagues didn’t always do the best job explaining how things worked because they were so used to the way things were. Anything from, “Who do I talk to when my office chair breaks?” to “What is a FOIA request and why does it mean I need to save all these emails?” No ill will on their part, it’s just that it often didn’t occur to them to clarify.

    2. A) Slow hiring process. It took me months to get hired. If I hadn’t been living abroad, I surely would have found and taken another offer. On the flipside, when I was helping do hiring at my old agency, we often lost great candidates to employers who interviewed and made them offers sooner.

    B) Navigating the USAJOBs process. The website has improved somewhat, but it’s still confusing. I was hired under the Outstanding Scholars program, which I don’t think exists anymore? Without that sort of thing, I feel like it’s hard to raise awareness and bring young people through the HR process.

    3. Pay is not amazing, but it’s decent. Benefits are good, and overall quality of life is really high. I worked with many wonderful, intelligent people who were passionate about public service. Personal and professional development opportunities. (To be fair, this many vary by agency.) Feeling like your job is important in that it allows you to have an impact on the lives of every day people.

    4. I like working for a place that has a mission. I don’t want to sell more widgets. I’m a big picture person; I find it personally fulfilling to do work that I see helps people on a macro level.

    5. I feel like government work is very opaque. Young people may not seek these opportunities because they simply don’t know what’s out there. If I say, “I’m a teacher”, you have an idea of what that means. If I say, “I’m a program analyst”, that’s not meaningless, it sounds dull as well. Higher management needs to put themselves in an outsiders’ position and actually explain what their agency does, what their office does, how it affects people on the ground, and how the position is connected to that in a way that is straightforward and isn’t full of acronyms or jargon. They can learn all that once they’re hired. If the hiring process is going to be slow, be up front about it. Keep communication lines open. The worst is sending your resume to the HR office and never having them respond or return your calls or emails for weeks and weeks on end.

  • #135683

    Nancy Colindres
    Participant

    Hi there,

    You can go ahead and quote me I don’t mind. I would like to start off by saying that I began working for SSA right when I graduated college in 2007 and had not even turned 21 yet. From my own experience, the most single difficult thing I encountered was how slow the systems that we used were and how antiquated the screens we use look (for ex. PCOM). We like innovation. In addition, I would have to add that the most difficult thing about working in government is the lack of opportunity to move up within the 2 year probation period. Yes, I know seniority plays a major part but how is that supposed to keep eager employees motivated knowing that for 2 whole years they cannot apply to any programs such as the leadership programs. The most frustrating part of the hiring process was the extensive job application we had to fill out online and then having to fill out a similar one once we got the job. The best thing about being a young employee is that it truly does help to serve a liaison between the gov and the community. A lot of my friends are college educated and they still have trouble understanding why the gov approves/cuts spending on specific parts of programs like SSI for ex. Being a gov employee and gaining a better understanding of why some things are done a specific way, it allows me to share my insight (except for the things meant to stay confidential) and put it in a way that they will understand. What drew me to public service was the fact that I wanted to first become a politician but then chose the business route until my mother started working in a retirement center and saw the confusion and help that the public so desperately needs. For management, I would say that with all the performance metrics already put in place I don’t understand why it is so hard to get promoted, also, I would have to say that people need more opportunities to advance or be able to branch out in different divisions within the organization for ex. operations, finance, etc.

  • #135681

    Julie Chase
    Participant

    To young folks, I say, Good Luck. FCIP is gone and if some zealot vets have their way, Pathways will not get off the ground. One of the hardest things for young folks who want to work in Civil Service, is the hiring process. I have heard that it is like climbing up hill in 5ft of snow. Once you hit submit, you’re lucky if you get a response. Most of my son’s STEP co workers got a sour taste for gov work due to this process.

    1. Up to date IT. I have heard this from my son when he was a STEP and his millenial peers. Up until the fall of 2009, we were working with Office 2003. The CAD program my son was using in 2009 was the 2004 version. No worries, they could use it, but it didn’t have all the bells and whistles they were using in college. We have NMCI, the most troublesome, breakdown system in DoD DoN.

    2. The time it took from submitting the application to someone from Norfolk, VA calling you for a job in NC.

    3. In this economy, it’s the best thing out there, if it weren’t for the hiring freeze in parts of DoD.

    4. It’s less than 20 miles to work. The benefits, health insurance mostly.

    5. Well, (my son is speaking as I am typing), update your IT, use the most current OS system and CAD. Why aren’t we wireless? I would gladly take a GS05 job, and have contacted the person heading up the Pathways program, however, it doesn’t look good.

    So there you have it, from the mouth of the millenials.

  • #135679

    Sterling Whitehead
    Participant

    You can quote me, but don’t mention that I’m a Navy employee. Just say a federal employee.

    1) Having your ideas taken seriously. (I’m 26).

    2) Not knowing where you were in the process.

    3) People’s facial reactions that say, “You work for the government? But you’re not old.” They’re can’t compute it.

    4) Quick promotion potential and there’s a public service history in my family.

    5) Implement a formal mentoring program, but do it well. Poorly executed ones can hurt morale.

  • #135677

    Seeing that I am a tad bit older than the target audience, I can only speak to #5:

    “5. If you could suggest anything to higher management in government to help them attract and retain young people, what would it be?”

    • Flatter organizational structure (we have way too many layers)
    • Empowering cross-functional teams
    • Flexible work schedules
    • Challenging projects

    The money is always important but, I don’t it is nearly as important as some of these factors.

  • #135675

    Just wanted to add that I would do more to retain current employees not just recruit new ones. Don’t take all that experience, commitment and institutional knowledge for granted!

  • #135673

    Carrie Guinn
    Participant

    Hi Heather,

    I am not a young person, but I lead a team of young professionals for six years in local government. I ran a very successtul team and you can view some of the recommendations from those that worked for me on my Linkedin account. I attracted this young and very productive group of professionals by being flexible and by understanding what they were being asked to deliver. I was the first manager that allowed people to work from home. I started by allowing them to work from home one day a week. I asked them to coordinate amongst themselves what day they wanted and to ensure that I still had coverage during every day of the week at the office. Along with this “perk” they were all signed up to GTalk so they could IM each other during the day to continue to collaborate as a team. They were always available via email and phone as well as IM. Some even had camera’s so they could video chat if needed.

    I was often asked by the other mangers why I allowed that and how I knew they were working and not gardening or sleeping. My answer was always that I knew what each team member was assigned to work on, and I knew how long those tasks should take so if they were getting their work done, then I knew they were on track. They each would send me a list of tasks they were planning to complete that day and at the end of the day, the would send me a list of what they were able to accomplish. Sometimes it was not all that they planned, but there was always an explanation that went along with it and the lines of communications were always open and active so I knew before the end of the day what was keeping them from progressing. The #1 thing to remember as a manager of a Gen Y group is that they are hard workers (with some minor exceptions that can be identified right away) and they will do anything they need to do to get the work done and to show it off. Trust them and they will work their hearts off.

    I treat them with respect and I communicate in a way that they always know I’m willing to listen and work around any obstacles they encounter and help them to be successful. They don’t all work 8am – 5pm schedules. Some come in at 6:30 and leave early, others come in at 9 and leave late. But I guarantee you that if there is something that needs to be worked on at 10 pm, they will be there doing it and if they need to leave to take their baby to their first doctors visit, or first day at kindergarden, I am flexible enough to let them take that time off to do it.

    The problem is, that I hired them and they bought into working for the government under my work philosophy. When I left, the next person they reported to was not as flexible or trusting so there they were stuck in a place with pre-2000 work philosophies. This is when they start falling of the team and running for other opportunities. This was a team of Java developers and webmasters. Positions currently in high demand and with possibilities for making a lot more money.
    These resources are hard to come by and retain but if they feel that they are being treated with respect and flexibility, they will stay. Their time off work is as important to them as money is to the baby boomers. This is a group of workers that go home and late at night they are up either doing research on new tools or technologies or writing code that they share for free.

    Bottom line:

    1. Be flexible with them

    2. Trust their work ethics

    3. Compensate them fairly (conduct yearly salary surveys to stay current)

    4. Know enough about what they do to communicate with them and earn their respect

    5. As someone else said before, adequately budget for training. They love to continue learing new things.

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