As younger generations contemplate what their career paths will look like, public service still remains an area of interest for many college students. But what does a career path for someone just entering the job market look like? Author Gayle Cinquegrani wrote an article recently for Bloomberg BNA describing the new modern worker. This persona values happiness and career development when considering their job or career choice.
The article, Workers are More Willing to Change Jobs, points out that millennials in particular who don’t find what those values they are looking for, are willing to leave to in pursuit of what really motivates them. So how do public employers embrace this new way of thinking? What can they do to continue to encourage careers in public service while adapting to a changing culture?
The answer requires each agency to look at their current retention strategies and will likely be different for everyone. According to the paper, Understanding Millennials in Government, written by Peter Viechnicki of Deloitte Services, LP, governments should consider some strategies not geared towards generations, but rather lifetime milestones such as buying a car or starting a family. There are also particular benefits that may attract younger employees like student loan repayment assistance programs.
In reality, committing to a lifelong career in public service is probably not what employees fresh out of college are prepared to do. Viechnicki goes on to say “governments may wish to develop different recruiting and career progression strategies, which allow them [Millennials with specific skill sets] to perform public service for shorter but still meaningful stints.” In other words, it’s better to have them for some time rather than not at all. This is where having a succession strategy or knowledge transfer plan would come into play.
Compensation means many things to many people. What motivates people to want to work for the public sector, or any job really, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s a quandary HR Managers everywhere are facing. Some have taken a look at this by generation which seems to give a pretty accurate picture of the wants and needs of employees in different age brackets. Although we know money is a motivator for most, there is more to compensation than just a pay check. What drives employees to say yes to one job and no to another? The four prominent generations in the workforce all say something a little different when it comes to compensation.
Millennials are the most talked about generation these days mainly due to the fact they are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Since the average Millennial graduate is $24K in debt, money is a driver and health benefits are a must. However, they also put a high value on learning new skills because it makes them more valuable. They may be skeptical about ever seeing a pension, or Social Security for that matter, so benefits that give them options to invest in their future are appealing.
The Gen Xers consider themselves “stuck in the middle” between two behemoth generations according to a study done by the Pew Research Center; like being the middle child. They generally have a lot going on in their lives between children and/or aging parents and desire that work-life balance to help them keep their sanity. This could be in the form of flexible work schedules, adequate time-off policies, and easy access to amenities to support their well-being.
Baby Boomers have begun exiting the workforce, but not as fast as it was originally anticipated mostly due to the 2008 Recession. This generation is loyal and could potentially be convinced to stay on even if it’s a part-time or contractor role. Like the Gen Xers, pay and flexible hours will be an incentive. It’s a way for them to continue to keep some cash flow going and still spend time doing things they would if they were retired. Many will qualify for Medicare so health benefits aren’t always necessary.
While Traditionalists are technically past retirement age, some are still employed. They typically feel a pride in what they do and want to continue making a difference. Respect is a value this generation takes seriously. Though it isn’t necessarily something you can compensate on, there are ways to show respect with a reward like a plaque or gift.
Public Service is an honorable career. Employees, regardless of their generation, take pride in adding value in their workplace and community. A salary and benefits provides employees with a means to function in their day-to-day life, but there’s nothing like that feeling you get when someone pats you on the back and says “You Made a Difference”.
Generation Y, also known as the Millennial generation, is comprised of about 80 million U.S. citizens who are becoming of age just before or after the millennial. Generation Y people tend to follow several definitional characteristics, but at a high level they are known as much for their tech savviness as they are for their belief that employers should adjust the organization’s culture to align to their values and personal lives. In other words, unlike the baby boomers before them who tended to make careers and job loyalty high priorities, Millennials very much expect to have a healthy balance of work and home life. If these needs aren’t met, Millennials tend to become dissatisfied and will often leave their current place of employment is search of balance and change.
I’m a baby-boomer parent to two very spirited Gen Y daughters, and as anyone with teens can attest, debates around the dinner table can be lively. In a recent discussion with our college-age sophomore, I was informed she and many of her friends are keenly interested in public service, and she predicted a disproportionate uptick in Milliennial hiring in the next decade compared to the wide swath of more experienced workers in the market. She used her cousin, Caroline, as an example, since Caroline just landed a job on Capitol Hill right out of college.
Given the prediction that 40 percent to half of the current baby boomer public sector workforce is due to retire in the next decade, I found our daughter’s proclamation to be admirable. I also decided to test her theory by paying closer attention to the people I’m seeing in public sector circles. What I’ve found is our daughter’s prediction is credible. As I’ve started to work and interact more with younger public sector workers, I have to admit I’ve been extremely impressed with the ideas and outputs they are driving. I also believe the Millinneals possess a genuine desire to serve and to serve well. They’re highly educated, they’re creative, and they’re innovative. However, in their quest to lead strong public service missions, I do worry whether the Millinneals will hang tight and be the generation that abolishes government inefficiencies and bureaucracy -or- whether they’ll succumb to the frustrations and take their talents somewhere else. I for one hope they give public service a chance.