Wayne Bobby is the vice president of Infor Federal.
The biggest generation in U.S. history is now the largest generation in today’s labor market, holding down 75 million jobs across the country as of 2015. You’ve heard for years the millennials are coming, and now they are here. Millennials can bring your department, agency or program the skills, attitude and tech savvy to deliver 21st-century services in an era of lean public-sector resources—but only if you have a practical plan in place to recruit and retain your next-generation workforce.
More Than a Paycheck
Some of the overwrought reports about millennials in the workplace have been greatly exaggerated, while others have missed the point. Your new hires won’t expect to be coddled through their first several weeks on the job or for a supervisor to take the place of mom or dad. Contrary to what you might have read, their parents won’t be showing up to enforce that unrealistic expectation.
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However, millennials do bring different priorities to the world of work. While they need and want the income, they aren’t only in it for the paycheck. Millennials value challenging work environments where they can learn, grow, contribute, and see their accomplishments shine.
In a recent survey, 45 percent of millennials were attracted to employers offering good opportunities for progression, and 33 percent were interested in jobs that offered excellent training and development programs. This generation values meaningful work for companies and organizations that have a social mission alongside the standard business imperatives.
Many of them also value work-life balance. They saw their parents devote evening and weekend hours to their jobs, while family and leisure time became secondary and aren’t necessarily too keen to follow that example.
Surrounded by Digital Technology
This millennial expectation might be a stretch for your organization but will turn into the gift that keeps on giving: technology. Millennials are the first generation of employees who grew up surrounded by digital technology. Many of them can barely remember a time before the iPhone. Most of their time is spent tethered to their devices, and those devices set the standard for the technology they expect to find at work.
When they land in your office, warehouse or factory, they will be looking for efficient IT gear that gives them the information they need, when they need it—or a business intelligence system that anticipates their next question before they ask it. They’ll also want data and content on the go, with mobile or tablet connections to the mission-critical information they need to get their job done.
Lastly, they expect a streamlined, intuitive, beautiful IT interface that provides the same ease and range of access at work that they’re used to receiving at home. If those job features aren’t available, they will go where they can access them, which might explain why the U.S. public sector is falling so far behind in its effort to recruit and retain the next generation of the workforce.
A Massive Return on Investment
The numbers tell the unhappy story: Millennials make up 34 percent of the U.S. workforce, but only 24 percent of the U.S. government workforce. Despite best efforts by generationally savvy supervisors and HR departments, the results are no big surprise.
As the wave of retiring baby boomers grows larger, tough competition from the private sector compounds the challenge to build the government workforce of the future. These factors, and the ever-present risk of a bad fit between the employee and the job, leave HR a narrow margin of error.
Fortunately, the traditional approach to recruiting, using standard criteria such as education level and work history, has given way to more sophisticated and accurate methods.
Organizations can employ science-based solutions to identify candidates that are the right fit for the job, as well as the culture of the organization. Hiring managers can build a detailed profile of the ideal candidate, and through the use of analytics, identify quality candidates who most closely align with the role requirements.
This innovative approach bodes well for not only hiring the right employee for the right job, but also reducing turnover. Many government systems still reflect the old stereotype of a slow-moving organization burdened with many layers of decision-making and are products of generations of underinvestment in software, devices and connectivity, leaving agencies with precisely the right system configurations to drive millennials away, rather than attract them.
But that challenge is actually an unparalleled opportunity. By investing in IT systems that will make your organization more tech savvy, you open the door to a generation of eager, willing employees who can take you the next step. By showing millennials you’re trying to build a modern, tech-enabled organization, you can begin to nurture and build the loyalty that is the cornerstone of employee retention, which essentially translates into a massive, continuing return on investment for your agency and the constituencies you serve.
The Agency Your Agency Could Be
It won’t be easy. Public-sector budgets are always limited, and there’s no sign funding will open up anytime soon. But that’s all the more reason to stretch every dollar available to you to get the most impact.
The right technology investment gets you the system improvements and efficiencies you need, enables you to hire the right employees for the right jobs—ultimately building the workforce that will carry your organization into the future. Your organization and its future depend on making that investment with millennials in mind.