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What Gen Z Wants from Work, and Why It's the Perfect Time to Attract Them to the Public Sector

For the past decade, the public sector has been bracing for what has been coined, “the silver tsunami” – a wave of baby boomer retirements that will create an enormous employment and institutional knowledge gap for federal, state, and local governments. 
 
To put that in perspective: In 2016 Leslie Scott, executive director of the National Association of State Personnel Executives (NASPE), estimated that 30 to 40 percent of state workers were eligible for retirement. And while the average number of Boomers retiring annually has remained steady at 2 million over the past decade, this trajectory was accelerated in 2020 with 3.2 million Boomers reported retiring (Pew Research).
 
As Boomers continue to retire from public sector positions, state and local governments need to attract a new generation of talent. In this post we share why ‘Gen Z’ talent graduating college and entering the workforce (adults currently age 18-24) are perfectly positioned to fill that gap.
 

Motivated by Purpose and Values in the Workplace

As this set of young professionals enters the workforce, they bring with them a strong sense of purpose and desire to create positive change. By the numbers: 
 
-       68% of Gen Z expects brands to contribute to society (Facebook IQ)
-       77% say it’s important they work at organizations whose values align with their own (Deloitte)
-       74% rank purpose ahead of a paycheck when considering a job (vs. 70% of millennials, 66% of Gen X and 67% of Boomer respondents) (Monster)
 
This is good news for public sector institutions, whose work is synonymous with public service and societal impact. Young talent wants purposeful work – now you just need to communicate that the public sector is the best place to find it. 

 

Looking for Security, Stability, and Career Development

These young adults were children during the Great Recession and spent their formative years seeing their parents struggle with job insecurity and financial strain. That, paired with many graduating college amidst the uncertain pandemic economy, has created a stronger preference for security and stability at work than one might have expected: 
 
-       70% described health insurance as their top workplace “must-have.” (Monster)
-       61% of Generation Z individuals surveyed said they plan to stay with their company for more than 10 years (SHRM)
-       29% report that an empowering work culture would make them stay at a job for more than 3 years (Medium)
 
These stats are also good news for public sector institutions known for excellent benefits, stable growth, and long tenures. And with more jobs opening up as Boomers retire, there’s plenty of room to learn on the job, get necessary training, and advance professionally. But keep in mind, this generation of workers isn't necessarily looking for a traditional career trajectory. 62% would rather customize their own career plan than have the organization lay one out for them (SHRM). So, public sector institutions may need to revisit how they promote and develop their workforce long-term. A small price to pay to retain this talent and loyal group!
 
 

Recent Rise of Technology in Government Comes Just in Time

One silver lining of the Covid-19 pandemic: as the public sector was forced to adopt remote work virtually overnight, tremendous strides were made to revolutionize technology in the government workplace.  In fact, 61% of government officials surveyed believe the pandemic expedited digital transformation at their organization (Granicus).
 
For this young generation of digital natives, the use of technology in the workplace is extremely important. While government has long lagged behind the private sector in digital transformation, the strides in past 15 months are promising for public sector employers looking to hire young professionals. And as digital natives, there is no generation of workers more equipped to put technology in action at work. 
 
Clearing communicating technology your organization uses – and how you plan to invest in technology in the future – will be critical in candidate conversations. 

 

There’s never been a better time for the public sector to attract early professionals.

The public sector is uniquely positioned to give young professionals the sense of purpose, stability, and career trajectory they desire most. 
 
This article was inspired by our podcast episode with Darin Matthews, a long-time higher education faculty member passionate about connecting supply chain students with meaningful work in the public sector. Tune in to the episode to hear what he admires most about this next generation of professionals and what they’d bring to the public sector.  
  Bernadette Launi

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