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The public sector’s millennial opportunity

Attracting millennial talent for government employment

The public sector has a “millennial challenge” when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. In fact, millennials today account for only 18 percent of federal workforce demographics, compared to 32 percent of the overall US workforce. While millennials have been slow to join the civil service, the government is expecting the impending retirements of 25 percent of its employees during the next five years. Public sector executives need to develop strategies for filling the gap between positions left behind by federal retirees and the valuable millennial talent willing to fill them.

Reframing government’s “millennial challenge” into a “millennial opportunity”

The government needs to hire and retain new talent quickly to be able to meet this workforce challenge. Federal agencies should treat this gap as an opportunity to digitally transform the traditional organizational structures that may be limiting its potential to attract millennial talent. Digitally-savvy organizations will also respond to the public’s need for quick problem-solving by engaging their people, promoting leadership at all levels, and fostering a more innovative, agile environment in everyday work.

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What do millennials want?

The millennial gap in public service is real, but why does it exist? Although millennials are attracted to professional opportunities involving social impact, perceptions of the government as slow-moving, bureaucratic, and less innovative than the private sector may contribute to millennial talent turning away. Federal leaders will need to effectively market employment opportunities that appeal to digitally minded talent skills that can impact government operations.

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Becoming a digital organization

Many government organizations are in the business of doing social good, yet the gap in innovation and marketing strategies often leads to struggles in attracting and retaining millennial talent. Government should work to transform into a digital organization that operates on a network of teams, thrives on empowerment, and encourages collaboration, innovation, and inclusive working styles that allow millennials to be heard and a part of the decision-making process.

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Enablers of a digital organization

If the government wants to become truly digital, then it should work to cultivate a specific mindset. This mindset is driven by two main factors:

  1. The organization’s people, and 
  2. The technological changes that follow

New technology is essential, but it won’t be effective without a change in thinking.

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Developing digital leaders

According to the 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report, “organizations need to build a new breed of younger, more agile, ‘digital-ready’ leaders” that can augment the institutional knowledge offered by more traditional leaders. To help welcome this new pipeline of millennial talent, existing federal executive leaders should embrace the digital age while addressing employee concerns about process modernization efforts.

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Leading successfully in the digital age means bringing a new mindset, being comfortable with changing technology, and enabling a new type of organizational culture.

For more tips, check out our “Leading government in the digital age” resource.

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