4 tips for pulling millennials into the workforce

A 2015 report by the Pew Research Center declared that millennials had surpassed Generation X as the largest share of the American workforce. That prompted still more media coverage, discussion and analysis on how to attract and retain a millennial workforce.

Clearly, there is no simple way to make effective use of new talents while preserving the expertise from previous generations, but the experiences and success of several colleagues in our community prove that we can find that balance. In fact, certain facets of government work could be an advantage in this regard.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions that could be helpful in attracting and retaining not only millennials but employees of all generations to enable a modern and flexible workforce.

  1. Reset and align expectations. Managers should accept that millennials might not commit to staying at a particular job for more than a few years and should try to make those workers as effective as possible during the time they are with the organization. By doing so, leaders might end up inspiring those employees to stay. The key is to recognize that millennials have high expectations of how they will progress through their careers and want to understand their leaders’ expectations, too.
  2. Don’t stereotype. It would be a mistake to give credence to stereotypes that millennials have an easier path to jobs than previous generations, that they are interested only in money or that they don’t work as hard but still want to achieve executive status within days of their arrival.

One of my nephews is talented, thoughtful, humble and hardworking. But within four years of his graduation, he has moved to four cities and worked for three employers as he followed opportunities for growth in different industries. He sees those moves as a way to meet his career goals. Many millennials are patriotic, committed workers and view government jobs as opportunities to do meaningful work (see the FCW Rising Star Award winners for examples).

We need to be aware of prejudices and avoid generalizations. Likewise, millennials should rid themselves of the mindset that older workers are irrelevant, inflexible and not savvy enough to navigate the digital world. Deep expertise, wisdom and lessons learned by those colleagues are valuable to every organization and to millennials’ growth.

  1. Build a collaborative, modern workforce. Leaders should clearly communicate all-encompassing, common goals to their teams and invite contributions from everyone in the organization. Moreover, those messages should be customized to the entire workforce. To reach millennials, government leaders might consider conveying those messages via social media and in mobile-friendly, crisp and succinct language.
  2. Don’t go overboard catering to millennials. I have seen some organizations focus on millennials at the expense of the rest of the workforce. For example, we should embrace social media and mobile devices but remember that it’s also effective to communicate via other methods. Managers should find out what tools employees prefer and not judge them for those preferences.

Millennials can bring important new skills and talents to government, but like any new employees, they must be made aware of the culture, the rules on hiring and advancement, and the organization’s deliberate processes for checks and balances. Although the rules and processes might result in a different workplace than millennials expect, they can ultimately result in a highly enriching environment where workers can make real and lasting contributions.

It’s a trade-off that can appeal to millennials in the same way it did for preceding generations.

About the Author

Venkatapathi "PV" Puvvada was elected a senior vice president by the Board of Directors in February 2015. In addition, PV was named president of Unisys Federal in July 2014.

As president of Unisys Federal, Venkatapathi is responsible for driving the company's growth in the federal marketplace by providing innovative solutions in areas such as cloud computing, big data, unified communications, mobile applications and security.

Previously, Venkatapathi served as group vice president for the company's federal civilian agency business since 2010. From 2005 to 2010, he was managing partner and chief technology officer for Unisys Federal, overseeing the company's federal solutions portfolio and service delivery excellence. Venkatapathi joined Unisys in 1992.

A vocal advocate of using technology to help federal agencies serve U.S. citizens, Venkatapathi has served in leadership positions at several technology-related industry groups and has won numerous awards for his contributions. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Professional Services Council, a group that advocates on behalf of the federal professional and technical services industry. In 2007-2008, he served as chair of the Industry Advisory Council, a public-private partnership organization dedicated to advancing government through the application of information technology.

Venkatapathi's contributions have been recognized through numerous industry awards. He is a four-time winner of the Federal Computer Week Federal 100 Award, in 2015, 2008, 2005 and 2003. In 2013, media company Executive Mosaic inducted Venkatapathi into the Washington 100, a group of industry leaders "who drive growth at the intersection of the public and private sectors." In 2010, he was named Government Contractor CTO Innovator of the Year in the large business category by the Northern Virginia Technology Council and Washington Technology magazine.

Venkatapathi holds a master's in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology.​​​​​​


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