The dawn of the millennials is coming for the federal workforce. Four out of ten federal workers will be eligible for retirement in the next five years, according to OPM director Katherine Archuleta. Meaning that someone has to fill those spots – and it will be the millennials.
Does this mean the face of the government is about to drastically change? According to Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, maybe not. Fox spoke with Christopher Dorobek for the podcast DorobekINSIDER arguing against some of the commonly held stereotypes about millennials as they enter into America’s workforce.
According to Fox, the millennials aren’t as radically different as they seem to more experienced government workers. Fox and the Partnership for Public Service organized a panel consisting of their millennial-interns along with some older government workers to understand what millennials are looking for in their careers.
So what did they find? Fox told us that millennials share a lot of the positive qualities that he already sees in the more advanced government workforce. “[Millennials] are basically just looking for the same opportunities that many of their older counterparts are,” Fox said. “They want to make a difference, they want to really develop their skills and grow into leadership positions, and they really, really want feedback to figure out how to continuously improve and to continue growing into ever greater roles of responsibility.”
Often, millennials are accused of being entitled, according to Fox. But that’s not necessarily fair, he asserted. This idea comes from their desire to have an ever-evolving career and to fulfill their dreams of giving back to society. “It isn’t so much as entitlement as high expectations,” Fox said. “They have high expectations for themselves, for their leaders, and for their colleagues. Sometimes that can come across as entitlement, but that’s not really the intent.”
This is all fantastic news for the government as it hires more and more millennials. So, how should hiring directors put the knowledge that millennials are do-gooders to good use?
Fox told us that it basically all comes down to marketing. Public service is a field where there’s a potential for huge contributions to society. He said that the government just needs to clearly communicate how they’re making a difference in society, and how by working for the government, millennials can make a difference too. Government employees need to be vocal about their everyday contributions.
“[Government employees should] celebrate the fact that they’re public servants and that they’re making a difference. They shouldn’t hide behind that fact or not think they’re cool for working for the government,” Fox shared.
This can be done through social media and in-person conversations with public servants at both a casual level and at career fairs, hiring events, interviews, etc. Additionally, the government should help the public understand the mission of each of its agencies through partnerships with professional associations and general word of mouth.
So, millennials set the bar high, but the government can certainly deliver on these heavy demands. And with the exodus of baby-boomers from the government workforce, it’s probably time for agencies to foster cross-generational friendships.