Marketing Your Mission and Other Ideas to Help Agencies Attract Young Talent

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The administration wants more young people in its government ranks, especially in tech.

Office of Personnel Management data indicates there are almost five over 60-year-old IT employees for every one under-30, a troubling ratio that shows the government’s problem recruiting young talent.

Two of the government’s top managers Wednesday outlined several ways the Trump administration is looking to reverse the trend, beginning with an “aggressive” legislative agenda, said OPM Director Jeff Pon.

Pon told the audience at a Partnership for Public Service event that he hopes to partner with members of Congress on “substantial” changes or authorities to his role as OPM director, such as expanding direct hire authorities across government. He cited successes at the Homeland Security Department in using direct-hire authorities to fill hundreds of cybersecurity jobs.

“They have some direct hire authority and it seems to be working, so why wouldn’t I want to have, as director of OPM, the power to do that for the rest of government?” Pon said.

The administration would pursue more “feeder systems for civil service,” calling for more partnerships and internships with colleges, universities and two-year vocational schools to onboard young talent. He said most of the government has been slow to react to digitization and technologies like the internet of things.

“We need to reinvigorate the talent and skills we have for the next 40 years,” Pon said. “We need to do what other generations have done. We need to make sure we have a GI Bill for critical occupations.”

Marketing Matters

Margaret Weichert, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, wants agencies to use their missions “to pull people into government.”

The U.S. Digital Service, for example, has successfully been able to recruit tech talent with the purpose and mission of government work—and they often take pay cuts, she said.

“The base of the pitch is when you go out and look in the private sector, all these companies are trying to tell you about purpose and mission and they’re having to work really hard,” Weichert said. “Here in government, you have the best purpose and mission: serving the American people, keeping people safe. We’re doing what the founders intended us to do. These are the best jobs, and we’re working to make sure you can make a difference doing these jobs.”

Agencies could take marketing lessons from political campaigns and private sector companies and do a better job telling their stories, she said. 

In one example, Weichert—a self-proclaimed Pokemon Go player—said the popular mobile app uses three sources of government data: GPS, weather and monuments information. The massively popular game makes an obvious tie-in to government service, and agencies shouldn’t miss out on opportunities to connect with people or cultural moments.

“I want to use marketing as part of change management, to tell stories about what our people are doing, but more importantly, how we are helping Americans and actually doing the mission,” Weichert said. “It’s the thing people don’t realize they depend on, until, like electricity, when it’s gone they start to notice.”