Keeping Generation Y on board

Young workers are not so different from their older counterparts, but there are a few distinctions.

Adam Cole is a senior director at the Corporate Executive Board and works with public-sector executives on workforce issues.

Attrition in the federal workforce is at an all-time low, but a closer look at separation rates reveals that there is still reason to be concerned.

Although experienced employees have been slow to leave their agencies in recent years, young workers have been much more mobile. In 2011, federal employees younger than 30 quit their jobs at a rate five times higher than their counterparts over the age of 30. Although 13 percent of 20-somethings left the civil service in 2011, many more are at risk of leaving: 31 percent report that they will consider leaving their organizations in the next year, according to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

The combination of an unstable young workforce and an imminent retirement wave poses significant worries for human resources directors. Retaining the public servants of tomorrow and the institutional knowledge needed to operate efficiently and effectively is critical, yet daunting challenges face the federal chief human capital officer community.

Despite the urgency of these human resources challenges, many agencies fail to appreciate the extent to which retention can affect the bottom line. Vacancies limit team effectiveness, and new entry-level hires typically take months to reach their full productivity potential. Meanwhile, recruiting and on-boarding new employees cost agencies thousands of dollars per hire, and considerable hours are required from managers for training.

So what's the best way to retain younger employees?

Some believe that Generation Y is fundamentally different from previous generations and that they should be managed differently to be fulfilled in their careers. Others suspect that workers today are not so different from those of the past, and ultimately they want an authentic experience and a real opportunity for career advancement. So which theory should we trust?

Researchers from the Corporate Executive Board put this question to the test and analyzed which workplace characteristics have the biggest impact on federal employees’ intention to stay at an agency. Using the 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data, we tested discrete workplace characteristics and their impact on the intention to stay of experienced public servants (ages 50-59) and the next generation of public servants (ages 20-29).

The analysis showed that both age brackets shared seven of the top 10 drivers of intention to stay, illustrating that these groups are not so different after all. Three themes permeated the top drivers for both generations.

  • Employees want to be positioned for success. Employees need to feel that their talents are being used in the workplace and that they have an opportunity to acquire a better job in the organization.
  • Employees want capable managers. Managers should involve employees in decisions that affect their work, demonstrate competence and work well with employees of different backgrounds.
  • Employees want a learning environment. Employees must feel that there are opportunities to improve their skills in their organization and that their managers are committed to their development.

However, there are some subtle differences between the two age groups. Development opportunities and recognition are more important to young employees, while more experienced employees place greater value on clear expectations and communication from management.

So as agencies ponder how to retain their best and brightest young workers, the answer is not to devise a new formula. Ultimately, what motivates millennial workers is not fundamentally different from what motivates those with more experience. Providing development opportunities and meaningful recognition have always been key tenets of management, and reinforcing both does not need to cost the agency much, if anything. Amid the commotion of constraining budgets, it is nice to know that the public-sector manager has a fair amount of control over the retention of their workers.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.