News and Insights

5 Things That Millennials Want in the Federal Workforce: Understanding the Next Generation to Improve Workforce Performance

May 28, 2020

As an increasing number of baby boomers plan to retire from the federal workforce in the next few years, the promising young generation known as millennials is expected to take over public sector jobs. According to a 2019 report by the Partnership for Public Service, the federal workforce is made up of approximately 25% millennials. While this percentage may seem small, the number is predicted to grow as millennials achieve higher education and climb the career ladder in the world of public service.

Like any generation, millennials portray characteristics that make them unique, especially in the workplace. Unlike their predecessors, those born after 1980 are entering the workforce later. But why? One possibility is crippling student debt. As quite the overachievers, millennials are drawn towards higher education and developing their skills to the best of their ability in order to make themselves more marketable. However, these extremely qualified candidates found themselves entering the workforce during a period when the economy was at an all-time low — The Great Recession — which could have prompted a decision to put the dream career on hold. In order to attract highly-skilled millennials into the federal workforce, understanding this generation is key. Here are five things that millennials prioritize when searching for their dream career in the public sector.

what are millennials looking for in a job
  1. Skill Development

For those who can afford it, the idea of attending college and being hired for a job after graduation is something that many Americans feel inclined to do. But for millennials, this process is nothing without a plan. As the generation made up with people who know what they want, snagging a job that can be developed into a passionate career is of the utmost importance. After completing additional schooling and acquiring student debt, millennials desire a job that will “pay off” in the long run — but not just financially. When entering the federal workforce, this generation is interested in developing their skills by continuously learning and finding new ways to become a valuable asset to their organization. In short — millennials seek validation in the workplace and the encouragement that they are on the right track to success. To complement this desire, implementation of performance management solutions and incentives will aid in their achievement of higher-level goals.

  1. Benefits

Since most millennials entering the federal workforce have worked hard to achieve top-notch educations, they are looking for a career that offers much more than just an hourly wage. A desirable salary, paid time off, the ability to work from home, and healthcare are a few benefits that millennials look for when searching for their dream jobs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, where most organizations that have the ability to telework have made the switch, the implementation of innovative technologies and practices can surely be considered benefits for federal agencies. While an entry-level salary in the federal workforce may not be enough to abolish student debt within a few years, the added perks of strong benefits can make or break an agency’s ability to attract candidates who aspire to be within that space for the long haul.

  1. Work/Life Balance

In the digital age that millennials are very in touch with, the typical 9-5 workday is no longer the norm, with access to technology 24/7. While millennials are just as dedicated to their careers as baby boomers and Gen Xers, prioritizing the ability to “log off” after a hard day’s work is essential. This process is known to the millennial generation as “work/life balance.” Even when working from home, many millennials wish to set up a schedule for themselves so that they can mimic the in-office routine and create a sense of structure in their workweek. While work/life balance isn’t typically considered a mandated benefit for all agencies, it can certainly be viewed as a workplace perk. In our current climate, the ability to even gather virtually after hours to unwind can be considered an incentive for candidates who hope to gain more from their career. On top of that, it’s an opportunity to incorporate team-building practices where employees can connect with each other on and off the clock.

  1. Loan Forgiveness

As previously mentioned, hefty student loans are a major concern for the millennial generation. While retirement is a financial responsibility that all workers have on their minds, millennials are more likely to worry about paying off these more immediate expenses presented to them. Therefore, the opportunity to gain loan forgiveness through one’s career is an attractive trait for organizations when looking to recruit millennials. Luckily, under the government-funded student loan program called Public Service Loan Forgiveness, federal employees are able to work in public sector roles in exchange for loan forgiveness. The June 2019 PSLF report highlights the number of federal workers who received loan forgiveness last year, which showed an improvement, but also showed a high rate of rejected applicants. So what does the future hold for millennials entering the federal workforce who seek loan forgiveness? According to Forbes, 2025 is supposed to be the “peak” of loan forgiveness approvals, with an estimated 147,848 eligible people. In other words, as millennials make career choices in the upcoming years, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program will transform into a more beneficial factor worth highlighting in the public sector.

  1. Ability to Make an Impact

A sustainable career and contributing money to savings is important for millennials, but so is the ability to make a difference in their communities. Millennials believe that they have a responsibility to be the pioneers of change in our current world, and this quality is commonly reflected through one’s work. It’s unlikely to see any form of business — whether that be in the federal government, private sector, or gig economy, neglect their opportunity to raise awareness about a cause they care about. Millennials are drawn to workplaces that prioritize charity and a passion for change contributing to a greater good. In the federal workforce, an agency’s core mission is a good indicator of what the organization is vehement about.

The challenges that millennials face in 2020 are different than that of their predecessors, prompting federal human capital leaders to push for advances to attract this generation. In order to bring in the best talent now and in the future, it is an agency’s responsibility to recognize the wants of their current talent pool and make changes wherever appropriate. 

To learn more about GovStrive’s HR offerings to help incorporate strategies for the next generation, check out our workforce strategy and talent management solutions today.