Making Government Work Appeal to Millennials

Susan Hall
Slide Show

The CIO-Millennial Divide: Struggling to Keep Up with Younger Workers' Tech Support Expectations

In writing about a survey of Millennials sponsored by Bomgar, which makes solutions for remote desktop support, I asked whether this new generation would require greater agility from IT.


Among the findings: 60 percent of respondents said a reasonable response time from IT support was 10 minutes or less.


I spoke with Scott Braynard, Bomgar's vice president of public-sector sales, about what the survey tells us in light of the federal government's efforts to attract younger IT workers. As my colleague Ann All has mentioned, more than 16,400 federal technology workers will be eligible to retire by 2012. Liz Shulof, Bomgar's director of public relations, also sat in on the call.


The feds have been working hard to make government work attractive to this new generation. In touting the new Technology Fellows Program, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel wrote:

In no other organization in the world can an individual work on information-gathering systems sent into space, the protection of our warfighters and homeland through cybersecurity, or unlocking health data that could benefit millions of Americans. Federal IT touches every single policy area and issue in our country. If you have a passion for solving complex problems and know that IT can be a part of any solution, the Technology Fellows Program will be a great opportunity.

To start off with, Braynard pointed out that the government seeks to hire Millennials in the general federal work force and in IT as well. He believes IT can use knowledge about this new generation to appeal to them:

We all know that Millennials are coming from the instant-gratification age. They feel they need what they want immediately. So that instant response, instant on - that was not surprising. They're also very curious about and very conscious about being able to solve their own problems. So there's a stronger desire than in previous generations for self-help. So the use of knowledge-based and self-serve tools, they adopt very quickly. And they want to know how something was solved so they can do it themselves if they see it again. I think that's something we can leverage in IT strategies going forward.

Braynard spoke about this generation's desire to use their own devices, and I allowed him this product plug because it speaks to the ways government can use that and benefit:

In our latest release, 11.1 of our software allows a technician to complete a remote support session on an iPad or iPad2. So if he's out at a coffee break at Starbucks and gets handed a particular support session, he can complete it and it doesn't matter whether the end user is on Windows or Mac or Linux or even on a BlackBerry device. He has an iPad and can use it for this.

Having grown up with the Internet and social networking, these younger workers are innately comfortable with new communications technologies. However, I mentioned that they might grate against the security needs of government work. Said Shulof:

Because they like to use self-help, there might be ways for the IT organization to bring pertinent information in from external sources, but put it in a secure area where they can search for themselves, but in a secure manner, or interact with colleagues-"Hey, has anyone seen this problem before?" If they can get the results they need fast enough to help themselves, then they won't go outside. They don't really want to break policies. They're doing that because they need help quickly and they can't find another way to do it. That's where IT can come into play by building self-help and knowledge management that work almost like these external tools and social media, Google, the things they're used to using in their day-to-day life.

Millennials want to use chat - they're very averse to email, Braynard said - and chat offers potential productivity gains:

The technician can handle anywhere from three to five text support calls simultaneously versus that single thread if you're on the phone. Multitasking is very prominent within this generation, so I can be doing other things while I'm chatting with support about fixing this access issue and the technician on the other end being able to do the same thing. It allows IT to offer the same level of support with the same or fewer resources. It helps dispel the myth that Millennials are very needy. That doesn't mean you need a lot more support staff to meet that demand.

The federal government's big push toward telework should also appeal to Millennials. But Braynard noted that creates new support requirements:

[Millennials] tend to work different hours. They work some, then they play some, so a service strategy for the typical 9-to-5 hours isn't going to work. There need to be process and tools and solutions available to help people find what they're looking for or escalate to live support in off hours.

Ann has written that the things that this new generation wants aren't that different from the rest of us, but they might be more comfortable than previous generations in voicing their desires. So they might wind up making work life better for all of us.

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