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Watch out…Here Comes the Next Generation of Government

Here Comes the Next Generation of Government…(Learn more 7/6-7/7)

The next generation of government is coming. And it’s coming fast.

I’ve been following these changes since I came to work to the federal government in 2004 fresh out of University of Pennsylvania on a Department of Homeland Security fellowship. As the son of a career civil servant, we would often have discussions about working in government and I noticed strong differences in ideas, conception, and concepts

Simple things like “Dad, am I allowed to check my hotmail account during work? “ He said no
but everyone at work did. “Dad, I’m going after a detail in another agency.” He said why switch agencies as the advantage is to build up a network in one agency.

My government service was different than his government service.

I noticed my friends, generation Y federal employees, had different goals, ideas, and conceptions of the framework. They were less interested in benefits, days off, and what would happen with their retirement plan. But they were interested in items like which agencies pay for graduate school, student loan repayment, how to switch agencies and do details, and how to move from government to industry to non-profit and back. They came to work to government because they were passionate about the mission and affecting change.

Thus, we launched Young Government
, which grew from a happy hour to the preminent non-profit for young professional employees. It grew to over 2,000 members with 6 chapters across the U.S. focused on educating and inspiring the next generation of leaders.

In 2008, I started to notice another major trend in how my
friends and colleagues were beginning to share information and connect. Years of collaborating via instant messaging and email was beginning to extend to social networks where we were connecting to share information. Instead of putting business cards in a rolodex, people were using LinkedIn as their mechanism to stay connected with work colleagues. Instead of sharing wedding and baby photos on flickr and snapfish, people were sharing them on MySpace and Facebook.

And I thought, there has to be a way to take these concepts and apply them to the government. Often at work, my boss would ask me to do something (research an IT acquisition strategy, create a college recruitment program, find best practices in gov’t on SDLC) and I just knew there were millions of people doing the same thing. Sometimes I knew people personally and I would call them and get amazing information right away. But I thought, what if I could ask the millions of government employees (fed, state, and local) online and get my answered quickly and share information to do my job better.

Thus, we
launched GovLoop, which grew from an idea at Starbucks to a social network of
over 30,000 government innovators across the globe.

In our first annual summit July 6 & 7, the Next Generation of Government Summit, we will begin to address some of the current trends that I think re-define the Next Generation of Government.

Here are five that I think are critical:

1) 1) Public Sector is Multi-Sector – Traditionally, government was run by full-time government employees. Then, over the last 30 years, government began outsourcing lots of its work to government contractors. The percentage of outsourcing would fluctuate with politics but it was still a very clear – public vs private divide. Good vs evil in many minds.

The next generation of government looks at solving government problems through all sectors. For example, improving health care in
America is being solved by government employees, government contractors, start-up entrepreneurs, non-profit volunteers. The next generation of government is not caught up on what side of the problem you are tackling it from – just that you are tackling an important problem.

In my own experience, I’ve worked on gov’t problems through non-profit (w/ govt grants), as graduate student (funded by DHS scholarships), as a gov’t employee, and now as a private sector (GovLoop) addressing gov’t problems. And in the last year alone, I’ve had dozens of friends move from private sector into gov’t, as well as vice-versa, as well as creating non-profits and startups all tackling gov’t problems.

2) 2) The Telework Trade-off – Telework has been pushed in government for years but it has failed to truly take-off. But at the same time, with the rise of Blackberries, workers are very used to the concept of getting work accomplished (answers emails, taking conference calls) while on vacation, driving to work, late at night, or at a soccer game.

The Next Generation of Government will demand a give and take. If I’m expected to take important calls when on vacation or answer emails at night at the dinner table, then there is
no need for me to be in the office everyday.

Telework also moves from the concept of working from home but also a mobile
work environment – working from Starbucks, Panera Bread, or work centers where
you can rent a desk for a day.

3) 3) Career Patterns are for Suckers – Yes. OPM has new sets of career patterns discussing how different generations view their careers. But… Talk to any recent grad, they want their first job to get them skills to go to grad school. Gen Y looks for jobs to build skills and networks before moving to the next thing. And this requires a different skill set to navigate building the key skills, taking the right jobs, and learning along the way.

This fits perfectly into the 1st point on multi-sector. I have friends who started with me in federal government who moved to academia, to fortune 500, to create start-ups, to create non-profits, and all sorts. The core for each of them was they were passionate about a topic (environment, statistics, policy reform) and wished to pursue that topic regardless of sector.

And on the reverse side, this includes the next generation of government includes baby boomers moving to semi-retirement telecommuting 2 days a week from North Carolina.

4) 4) Technology is Ubiquitious – Already, technology is ubiquitious everywhere. The
average generation Y has a smart phone where they check the movie times before they go, they decide bar arguments quickly by searching Wikipedia articles on their phones, take and send photos instantenously

At the same time, technology at work is still lagging. Lots of websites are blocked, individuals aren’t trusted to download software,

The next generation of government is usually this technology quickly to get the job done. If I want to talk to a co-worker in another location, I will use skype to have a quick video-chat or
something similar. If I have a work question, rather than just ask the cubicle next to me, I will ask on
social networks like GovLoop and Twitter to see if anyone has already solved
the problem.

5) 5) We support Awesomeness.

There is no reason the government can’t be awesome. We grew up with products and companies that we were passionate about – how amazing is the new ipad, or when google search came out, or a great new video game or website we had to show our friends.

And we want to work at a place that is awesome. That’s why Teach for America and Peacecorps are so successful. They are proud and say what they are doing is amazing. And that excites us.

The next generation of government is about government branding and marketing that is great. Work that is visionary and impressive. An image that is not the SNL DMV skit. Government
work should not equal DMV work. It should be similar to working on “Save Darfur” campaign or “Live Strong”. Big, powerful, impactful, and important.

Hope you’ll join us July 6 & 7th at the Next Generation of Government Summit to tackle these issues.

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Scott Horvath

The “less interested…in what would happen with their retirement plan” line is very disturbing me. And you’re right as well. I believe I heard not to long ago that this upcoming workforce (Gen Y) is in a boatload of trouble because they don’t care about their future retirement well-being, and have the lowest amount of savings of any generation to date. If this is true, then I would say that managers and future government leaders better be prepared to tackle a possible increase in salary budgets for the same amount of staff.

My thought here, and this is completely all of my own opinion, is that as mobile phones become commonplace for every young employee they will, as you say, demand something in return. Except, I don’t think it’ll be less work in the office. Instead it’ll be more pay for working after hours, weekends, and holiday pay. Even now, when you check your government issued phone outside you’re normal 8 hour day, you’re technically supposed to be tracking all of that time because every minute of it is considered after hours work.

I may be making a very broad generalization here, and I certainly don’t believe everyone is like this, but at some point employees are going to start demanding extra pay to compensate for the extra hours they spend on the mobile phones. It won’t be for “credit hours” either. It’ll be a demand for actual dollars in the paycheck because many will come to realize that they’re unprepared for retirement and have a lack of savings to sustain them through tough times. Getting extra pay for working after hours is a simple way to make more money (if that’s what ends up happening instead of credit time).

So, while I agree with most of your generalizations about Gen Y, I don’t think all is rosy and peachy. I think managers and budget officials should prepare for the possibility that future workers may demand additional pay for the extra hours worked “off time” and not “less time in the office.” I think we would be naive to think that it couldn’t happen. And, also be prepared for the possibility that workers may then demand that if they’re not going to get more pay, then they won’t be made accessible via a mobile phone.

Anything is possible.

Pam Broviak

Scott – you are right to consider that people will ask for pay related to mobile phone use. At the last city where I worked this was negotiated as part of the union contract years ago. Each worker who carried a cell phone was paid a certain amount of money in addition to their regular pay solely because they carried a phone. Not used the phone – only carried it.

Scott Horvath

That’s what I mean. If it’s not happening now, it’ll probably happen in the not-so-distant future.

Dannielle Blumenthal

(posted this over at Brazen Careerist too)

As a speaker at the July conference innovation in government, thought I would share a couple of thoughts. But first thank you for all the effort you have put into promoting “awesomeness” in government. GovLoop.com has made a real difference.

One thing that I have found helpful to being innovative, a change agent, a doer or whatever is to stay away from power politics. I just try to get things done and I hate it when egos get involved because I know that is what kills good ideas and squashes good people too.

At the same time the reality of life in government is that you are working in a huge bureaucracy most of the time. You have to have a chain of command. You also, if you are new to government, have to recognize that the people who have been there for many years are not reducible to the typical negative stereotypes but are usually incredibly smart. If they’re negative at times it’s because they’ve seen troublemakers come, wreak havoc, and go; if they’re change averse it’s because they’ve seen a lot of dumb ideas hurt people and make things even less efficient. Hear them out, give them a chance. Don’t think you’re so much smarter just because you can program a website and they can’t.

Bottom line. It’s great to be awesome and wow and cool and to Tweet and FB and everything. But change doesn’t come from technology or image. It comes from people working together as they always have, for a meaningful goal to all of them, in a way that respects everyone’s differences and allows them to be authentic and honest. When you do that AND you have the momentum of the team you really can move mountains. Trying to be a lone hero may look good in “24” but even Jack Bauer had Chloe back at HQ.

Anyway thanks for all the effort to promote innovation. I’ve really enjoyed the past 7 years in govt. and look forward to sharing some lessons learned on July 6.

Nichole Henley

Side note- I would LOVE to attend the summit but it is sadly out of my price range. Despite the fact that my command is doing MAJOR cut backs, I personally would foot the bill if it was a bit more modest cost. I am a HUGE supporter of YGL and GovLoop and I (and I’m sure others) see me as a leader so I think this summit is absolutely appropriate. Kudos to the planning and good luck with the execution!! I hope you post the presentations or summaries for those of us who would have attended but couldn’t!!!

Nichole Henley

And another note—- ditto about the details. My previous supervisor just didn’t get it. “Why would I let you go on a detail and risk losing you???” So what did I do? Leave. You have to be willing to build your employees and LEARN TO LET GO! No one grows from being stifled. And who knows? They may even return and bring forth much more than expected.

Dannielle Blumenthal

I also think the summit, or at least part of the summit should be free.

In tough times people don’t have the money to go to a conf. even if it is $650 for govt. (which is pretty cheap.)