Can Feds Attract Younger IT Workers?

Ann All

In September I wrote about the federal government's interest in modeling some of the personnel practices of Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook with the aim of making federal employment "the model workplace for the country."


In particular, Uncle Sam is interested in recruiting millennials to replace waves of older IT professionals who will become eligible for retirement over the next several years. According to a Federal News Radio article I cited in a post from February, the Partnership for Public Service estimates federal agencies will hire more than 11,500 IT employees between 2010 and 2012. More than 16,400 federal technology workers will be eligible to retire by 2012.


The fed's recent moves to reach out to younger prospects included an IT Job Shadow day that attracted 425 students from 37 high schools in the Washington metro area who visited 34 agencies.


But agencies may need to make some fundamental changes to their workplace cultures if they hope to recruit and retain younger workers. That's the conclusion of a report titled "Net Generation: Preparing for Change in the Federal Information Technology Workforce" spearheaded by Department of Defense deputy CIO Dave Wennergren. According to a snippet of the report included in an InformationWeek story, millennials aren't interested in "working their way through the organizational hierarchy."


The report also cites some of the more commonly accepted bits of wisdom about millennials: They welcome lots of job training. They like frequent feedback on their performance. They appreciate recognition for jobs well done. They want to use social-networking technologies at work. They want more flexible scheduling options, such as telework.


In looking at this list, I was reminded of comments from Lisa Orrell, author of the book "Millennials Incorporated," whom I interviewed last summer. Millennials want the same kinds of workplace benefits as the generations before them, she told me. They are simply more vocal about it and tend to ask for them sooner. She said:

They are causing corporate cultures to shift in ways that are beneficial to everyone. They are coming into corporate cultures with demands. They are saying, "I want flex time. Why do I have to put in 15 years with the company to get it? Why can't we all have it now?" Or, "Why do I have to sit in this cubicle eight or 10 hours a day when I can get this work done at home?"

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