Like many government agencies, your team may be dealing with a worker shortage as older workers retire. In the past, company loyalty was a given as employees stayed with organizations for a longer period. However, as millennials and Gen Z begin to take over a larger portion of the workforce, companies have become multi-generational. It's crucial to understand what younger generations want in their careers.

What Millennials and Gen Z Seek in a Career

First, let's uncover what millennials and Gen Z seek in careers. While you may not be able to offer everything on the checklist for younger workers, offering a combination of the following activities can help you attract Gen Z and millennial talent and retain younger employees in the process:

  • Flexibility in when and how they work
  • Diversity initiatives that feel like more than checking a box
  • Companies that stand for something and live that truth daily
  • Opportunities to grow and develop individually, as a team and as a leader
  • Recognition for the hard work they do daily that often goes unnoticed

How the Public Sector Can Retain a Younger Workforce

On the whole, the public sector is better at keeping employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure for public sector work was 6.7 years, far higher than the private sector's median tenure of 3.7 years. It is worth noting that the average age of employees in careers like public administration is 45.8, which means that the average employee skews older.

If you are looking to appeal to a younger workforce, here are some strategies to help:

Build More Flexible Schedules

While flexibility and the public sector are often mismatched, you'd be surprised by what you can offer:

  • Create shifts and allow employees to choose when they work if your organization is available 24/7.
  • Invest in the right technology to allow for hybrid or remote roles if employees can do work from home.
  • Offer more time off if you need employees to be in the office daily.

Focus on Diversity and Inclusion

Do your diversity initiatives feel like they are checking a box? Do you have women and people of color on your website but not in your office? Once these employees start, do they feel included? You want to ask these questions as you focus on diversity and inclusion.

  • Survey your workers to get to know how they feel about your diversity initiatives.
  • Encourage employees who start resource groups at work.
  • Ensure employees are paid fairly and equally.

Define and Live by Core Values

Did you know that 56% of employees wouldn't consider working at a company with values they disagreed with? More than ever, employees are looking at what companies care about and stand for. Silence on challenging issues also speaks volumes. Employees want to know that they are contributing to organizations that stand for something they agree with.

Public sector organizations can focus on why their agencies were built in the first place. What does this organization bring to the community? Here are some other strategies you can try:

  • Make your values known in company marketing materials.
  • Enforce your values through the programs you offer.
  • Make decisions based on the values you hold.

Provide Opportunities for Growth and Development

In a recent McKinsey study, many employees shared that a lack of career advancement made them want to leave their jobs. In the private sector, there is often a clear path for upward mobility, be it a raise or title change. Companies must ensure that every employee knows what's available to them.

Create a Culture of Recognition and Praise

Last but not least, employees want more recognition for their work. When was the last time you thanked an employee for handling a tough call or filing their papers correctly? While these are normal things to do, when employees handle these tasks, it makes your life easier. You don't have to say "good job" every day, but it's important to say thank you consistently.

  • Invest in employee recognition software.
  • Create fun awards like Employee Of The Month.
  • Start bonus and incentive programs for employees who do well.

Key Takeaways

If your organization is in the process of attracting younger workers, it may feel overwhelming. Younger workers are expecting a lot from employers, after all. So, why are companies doing this? Understaffing in the public sector is a huge issue. We need teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public service workers. Without these roles filled with happy, healthy workers, our cities, counties, states and countries suffer.

If these investments intimidate you, take it one step at a time. You don't need to make 15 adjustments at once. Instead, pick one, implement it and see if it works for you. Before you know it, you'll be attracting new generations of workers and retaining the best talent around.

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How can public sector organizations attract and retain a younger workforce? Here's what millennials and Gen Z want at work.
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Jason Litchney

Jason Litchney brings over 15 years of experience and passion in marketing for the public, private and non-profit sectors. Jason is a dedicated leader, national speaker and entrepreneur responsible for founding and managing the growth of multiple organizations recognized on the INC 500 fastest growing companies list. Jason serves as the Marketing and Employment Branding Manager at CPS HR Consulting and helps public agencies brand their organization to attract and retain talent.

About CPS HR Consulting

CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country.  Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients.  We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.