Quiz: Is Your Local Government Prepared for Millennials?

Posted on April 22, 2015

Is your organization ready for the upcoming wave of local government retirements? California-ELGL leader and Daly City, CA assistant city manager Julie Underwood shares a quiz that’s Cosmo-worthy (if Cosmo ever ran polls about local government succession planning…).
images (1)A hot topic around public sector organizations is the large wave of retirements that we expect to see in the next three to five years (this is happening now for some organizations). Who will replace these retirees? Millennials.
The Gen Y or Millennial generation, who are roughly between the ages of 18 to 34 in 2015, are projected to surpass the Boomers (ages 51 to 69) as the nation’s largest living generation. And the Gen X group—my cohort (ages 35 to 50) is projected to outnumber Boomers by 2028.
Is your organization prepared for this wave of recruitments and new hires? In other words, have you put updated policies and systems in place, have you designed an inclusive, forward-thinking culture, have you shifted your attitude in order to maximize the talent this workforce brings? Take this quiz to see where your organization ranks.

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Funniest_Memes_meeting-at-930-am_797As a “purpose-driven” generation of employees, they’re hungry to know the big picture. They have a curiosity and interest in all work-related matters–even if those matters lie far outside their defined area of responsibility. This generation wants to work for leaders who have a vision for the organization – they want to work for a community that has a sense of where it’s headed. It’s just not enough to have a mission statement – your organization needs to be able to communicate a long-term vision and plan. What value does your organization place on communicating? Do you hold all-hands staff or department meetings? Does the leader make a point to visit each division or department? Do you hold annual retreats with your staff? If it’s not a priority, then you will lose this talent to other organizations who make this a priority. In today’s world, they’re not buying excuses for why you’re not providing regular communication.


The good ole’ days are gone. The days when employees stayed in one organization their entire career is a relic of the past. This generation has lived through the Great Recession. The degree of layoffs during the recession has also eroded the iron promise of job security that people had. In addition, this generation does not see long-term value in pensions and other government benefits. And here’s the thing, that doesn’t matter to them as much as having opportunities to learn, develop, experience, and to make a difference. A Price Waterhouse Coopers survey indicated that 86% of Millennials would consider leaving an employer if its social-responsibility values no longer matched their expectations.
i-have-the-talent-people-and-i-make-good-use-of-it-thumbIf your organization is small, opportunities for advancement may be few and far between. However, perhaps you’re able to provide employees with projects that help to “stretch” them outside of their typical role. Or you’re able to provide them with challenging projects and job responsibilities.
Millennials may be viewed as job-hoppers, especially by those more seasoned in their career. One of ELGL’s advisors, Alex McIntyre, City Manager of Menlo Park, CA, has said, “Organizations borrow talent, they don’t own it.” We must shift our perspective from judgment to acceptance when we experience our Millennial talent leaving.
We must now emphasize the importance of harnessing as much of an employee’s talent as long as s/he is in our organization, the need for an organization to cultivate and enhance that talent, and to realize that sometimes this means helping the person find a better opportunity elsewhere.

survey services

The office Quotes with michael ScottA fundamental change with Millennials, and Gen Xers for that matter, is they want to have some say in their work environment, and even how that environment affects other parts of their lives. I have witnessed a hesitation from some of my Boomer colleagues about having employees weigh in. They’re concerned that employees will misunderstand their role. However, as I’ve heard employees express, “I know I don’t get to make the decision, I just want to be able to be part of the decision, part of the conversation.” This aspect of the work environment is a big part of employee satisfaction. This generation will not “take their lumps,” and continue to work in an environment that does not value their opinion. Life is too short to remain miserable.

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Does your organization provide for 9-80 work schedules? Do you allow employees to work from home occasionally or on a regular basis? Would you consider “job-sharing” or allowing someone to go part-time? This is a generation that will make career decisions based on life-work balance.
This generation will not stay with employers unless they are happy with management and the day-to-day. We will see them quit in record numbers because they will want a work life balance that has not been seen before. They see their Boomer bosses working all the time and simply don’t want those demands put on themselves and families. They value having an enriched life outside of work and want their leaders to model this as well.

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Does your organization have systems in place that allow employees to access work files and applications remotely? Can they do this seamlessly or do employees have to create work-arounds? Most Millennials have never known a world without computers. They have had substantial exposure to the Internet, mobile technology, and social media and find these tools easy to use and just part of life. And since they like having flexible work schedules, they like being able to access work from anywhere at anytime. If your organization does not make this easy to do, then you are not well equipped to meet their expectations for access.

survey software

Millennials are more racially diverse than any other generation, with 43% of Americans in this age group nonwhite. They want to see leaders that reflect their community and believe we have a morale responsibility to improve this.
This generation wants see diversity in the most global sense, from gender, racial, and age at all levels of government. This generation also wants to see diversity reflected in management positions, which is why the #13percent conversation has been so meaningful.


Have you made it a management expectation to lead through coaching and feedback? Don’t confuse feedback with micro-maparticipation-trophynaging. In fact, managers may need to be hands-on at times. That being said, if the manager places a high priority on two-way communication, they’ll have a good sense of when to be hands-off. Millennials want to establish a continual feedback and communication loop with their manager.
Keep in mind, Millennials were raised with lots of feedback, though most of it has been positive. Millennials are not used to negative feedback. For instance, this is the generation that gets a trophy for “participation,” and are used to receiving partial credit. Managers will need to shift how they provide feedback, being careful not to focus purely on what’s wrong and what needs improving, but to also spend time highlighting what has gone well; this will go along way in encouraging their growth.

Let’s see how your organization has done. To score yourself, you get 2 points for every “A” selected, 1 point for every “B,” and “0” for every C.
Hipster Organization
If you scored between 11 to 14 points, you have a Hipster Organization. You’re cutting edge and are open to continually improving. Millennials are eager to join your organization, not because of the compensation, but because of its leaders and culture.
Trending Organization
If you got a score of 10 to 4, you have a Trending Organization. You’re heading in the right direction and with a little more effort, you’ll be attracting and retaining those Millennials.
Dated Organization
If you got a score of 3 to 0, you have a Dated Organization. Your culture values status quo above all else. It will be a challenge to shift the culture, but with leadership and commitment, it can be done.
Increasingly the Hipster Organization isn’t just appealing for Hipster Millennials, but also for other generations. As local governments begin to focus on developing a collaborative, results-based culture and changing applicable systems, Boomers and Xers will see the benefits from these changes, even before the influx of Millennials.
Organizational change takes time and while there are lots of short-term steps and actions to move things forward, it will likely take a few years to move the culture to the desired Hipster status (obviously it’ll take longer to move from Dated status). For those insightful leaders who are willing to take this challenge on, remember it will take a mix of positivity, patience, and persistence.
Studies have shown that an individual’s job performance depends heavily on how meaningful she perceives her work to be. More than ever, Millennials entering the job market are making career decisions based on how closely their personal values align with an organization’s values. A career in public service, especially local government, is the ideal field for Millennials – They get to make a significant difference in their community – What greater purpose is there?

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