Millennial Misunderstanding – Why they love community service but not government

A recent article in the Atlantic commented, "Young people are eager to serve and to change the world. They just have no faith that public service or elected office are the way to get it done."

That's a pretty staggering statement, and a not-so-good prediction for the future of the government workforce. We wanted to get to the bottom of the disconnect.

Tim McManus is the Vice President for Leadership and Education at the Partnership for Public Service.

He told me on the DorobekINSIDER program that he was a bit shocked by the Atlantic article.

"The part of the article that I found the most surprising was that millennials don't see government or politics as the way to improve the country. That is a little bit counter to what we've been hearing and seeing right now. But every day things are changing. There are more and more stories of pay freezes, furloughs and fed bashing, so clearly all those are things that contribute to the issue of whether millennials want to work in government," said McManus.

Millennials are goal orientated

"In general millennials have no patience for inefficiency, stodgy institutions or the status-quo. They look at things from a different lens. That's what government needs. But if agencies aren't willing to make those kinds of tweaks you will see millennials enter the government and leave almost immediately," said McManus.

Engage fast and often

"The key is engagement with millennials. As a manager you may not be able to change the culture of an agency to suit a millennial but you can find ways to bring them in and give them meaningful work. Managers have to give millennials early opportunities to contribute," said McManus.

Collaborate over individual work

Millennials prefer to work in groups. "That mindset is a huge asset for agencies. They refuse to work in silos. Millennials think enterprise-wide. But it is incumbent upon agency leadership to accept the new perspective. If we are looking for enterprise-wide solutions in the current fiscal climate government will be heading up a steep hill," said McManus.

Misson is the driver

Millennials are less concerned about salary and more concerned about affecting change. "Government has always had to play the mission card to attract talent. But now we need to make the value proposition about how millennials work can actually change things," said McManus.

Communication revolution

Smartphones and tablets are like second limbs to most millennials, so for government they key to good communication is to tap into those tools. "On the flip side, millennials have to enter government willing to make some changes. They might not be handed the latest device, so they need to adapt. The real growth area is when government is able to bring these groups together to collaborate," said McManus.

Tempt millennials with continuous learning

"Sequestration has caused many agency to scale back training. And while that is not idea there are still plenty of ways to train your employees. You should give millennials stretch opportunities and develop them on the job," said McManus.

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