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Millennials and the Public Sector IT Workforce

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Yash Acharya
October 28, 2016

  • Scenario:

A young and experienced information technology (IT) developer is looking for a job that to grow and expand his career. In such situations, his or her first choice will be the tech product companies, consulting companies or multi-national companies. However, he or she will not think of joining a state or a local government entity.

Why wouldn’t that IT developer first look for opportunities within the public sector?

  • Aging Government Tech Workforce

robot-507811_640In today’s world, the public sector technology workforce is aging and retiring rapidly. In addition, government is struggling to keep up with the growing demands of cutting edge technologies, citizen requirements, and real-time services.

We live in a disruptive technology world and the Generation Y’s and Z’s are influenced and deeply ingrained in that world. They constantly want to learn, grow and work on new cutting edge technologies, interact with external communities using social media and develop innovative solutions for their employers. Job stability, retirement benefits and steady career growth are generally not on their priority lists. They want higher pay, modern offices, open door interaction, access to high-speed internet, and most importantly, accessibility around the most cutting edge technology tools, software and equipment to explore, play and build innovative solutions.

How can we get these Generation Y’s and Z’s to get attracted to government jobs?

  • Something to think about

As most of us know, job structures in government are defined by the Labor Departments’ job codes, classification codes, requirements, job definitions, salary structures, among others. Most of these criteria and classifications have not been updated for decades to align with the new generation’s needs, demands and, most importantly, advancements in technology. Similarly, the hiring rules are extensive and tiring for new IT professionals to explore new opportunities, switch jobs quickly and retain those jobs.

With the fast-changing technology world, governments must adapt and evolve their way of reviewing job classifications, employment rules and processes. They must also come up with innovative ways to attract and retain technology talent, support projects around updating their current systems and bring in new ideas to build and develop solutions that provide real-time services to the citizens.

Some governments are already thinking and adapting to some of the below concepts:

–        Attractive Compensation – One of the biggest challenges facing governments for attracting young technology professionals is competitive pay when compared to the private sector. While it is very difficult to compete with the private sector in terms of salary, it is one of the most important factors for state labor departments to review the current pay structure for technology jobs and create attractive compensation plans (maybe even variable compensation options) for talented individuals. Some of these could be focused on specific technology solutions that the state is planning to invest in or is currently invested in.

–        Technology Fairs – Governments can hold technology fairs to show the various technologies that they’re investing in, the business and citizen impacts of these solutions and technologies, and the tangible and intangible benefits to the community. These fairs could invite students from various colleges and other universities and allow them to share their ideas, and potentially view employment opportunities with the government.

–        Technology Centers of Excellences (CoE) – Some governments are in the process of developing CoEs around various business and technological domains. Other governments should leverage these ideas and build CoEs to encourage technology leaders and professionals to collaborate and share innovative ideas, technology insights and develop white papers for the overall improvement of the technology workforce. In addition, these CoEs should constantly think about ways to attract and encourage employees to share and collaborate and to have the best and the most advanced value-added knowledge sharing activities.

–        Public Private Partnership – States could partner with the leading companies, universities and colleges, to create opportunities for employment rotations. This would allow talented individuals to work in government departments for a limited timeframe. Governments could leverage this option specifically for key high profile projects, specific solutions and targeted activities. In return, the states could work with these companies, universities and colleges to offer alternative economic support and programs for participating entities in this rotation program.

–        Technology Roundtables – Based on the existing technologies and solutions, states could set up technology roundtables. They could invite leading technology companies to meet and build relationships with state employees and organize specific training, knowledge sharing and collaboration activities to help improve and expand the technological landscape of the state.

–        Training – Perhaps one of the most important aspects of retaining talent is to help individuals grow in their knowledge and careers. States should invest in specific technology training for IT professionals and allow them to participate and learn the more cutting edge technologies that are available. States could focus on the specific technology areas that the state has invested in to help individuals directly apply training to their new and upcoming projects.

–        Technology Innovation Centers – States could potentially invest in specific technologies that are already being used and set up innovation centers where individuals can have sandbox environments to practice, learn new technologies, implement innovative solutions and take them back to their departments.

 The aging IT workforce will force governments to shift and refocus their energies to attract and retain young talent and improve services to citizens. This is systemic change in the way governments have interacted in the past. Something to think about!!


AuthorCreativeTechNerdie – Yash Acharya is a director within KPMG LLP’s State and Local Government Practice, with a focus on assisting governments with business transformation initiatives. Thinker, coffee fanatic and government transformation passionist. Yash’ s column shares innovative ideas, thoughts and real world challenges for government, companies and the public to think about where we want to go next. Views expressed are his own.

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One Response to Millennials and the Public Sector IT Workforce

  1. David Hamilton Reply

    October 28, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Provocative and informative. Innovation is the key that unlocks creativity, yet government structures and work practices impede technological advancement. Most are locked into the command/control hierarchical culture from the industrial era that is outdated and stifling needed adaptation.

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