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Transition of Age

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

By Marvin Pichla
December 17, 2018

Today I would contend that the public administration employment sector at all levels is going through a major Transition of Age. This claim is defined and driven by basic observational research which appears to reflect a significant increase of younger professionals considering workforce opportunities in the field of public administration/public service. This potential influx of new age thinkers/risk takers/idea generators can only be recognized as a timely benefit as we identify and consider solutions to 21st century public sector service system challenges. But are we, current public administration professionals, strategically prepared to embrace the Transition of Age?

Effectively addressing the Transition of Age evolution will first require the public administration employment sector to confidently compete with the private sector for “the best and brightest!” Unquestionably the private sector is concurrently facing an aging workforce crisis and thereby needs to recruit quality workers within all its industry segments. Truly, the competition for young adults entering the world of work has not been this high in years. It will hence be continually critical to promote a progressive public service jobs arena and one that is prepared to embrace creativity and innovation going forward.

Introducing a non-traditional innovative example would be an effective means of meeting the recruitment challenge of “Show-Me-Creativity” in the workplace! Initially, one possible concept would be recognizing and sharing public sector innovations by establishing a simple online depository. This option would not only create a new-age design for recording quality program/service innovations but also would instantly offer an inviting construct for new workers in public administration positions to be creatively recognized.

A secondary but equally challenging situation to employment in the public administration field is employee retention. Employee retention may not be a regularly discussed concern area for public and private non-profit organizations, but with low unemployment levels and “We-Are-Hiring” signs in every company window, keeping good workers is an increasingly future-building strategy. To this end it is necessary to recognize and progressively address the “age gap” that exists between current, seasoned public service workers and the new employees walking through the door. Employee retention is not just about ensuring that new employees feel welcomed and needed early in their positions. The Transition of Age (i.e. age gap) situation will also require a more confident blending of workforce talent both old and new to ensure employee retention is dealt with no matter worker tenure.

Once again, if we apply the appropriate level of innovation, one employee retention option may be to introduce a customized Two-Way (PA) Transition Mentoring component in every public service delivery entity that will not only highlight valuable employee talents new and old… but may result in more effective and efficient program offerings. Two-Way (PA) Transition Mentoring could be designed as a continuous improvement and progress organizational maintenance tool. First, from the perspective of a new employee, it would be more than helpful to receive a “history lesson” from those who have been with an organization and in a traditional area of employment for an extended length of time. This focused mentoring would address pre-high technology client service designs and programs. Explaining the need and purpose for certain eligibility/program forms during a time when “self-service computer kiosks” were not even invented would be very beneficial during the early mentoring process. It is important to note that the Two-Way (PA) Transition Mentoring sessions would NOT be viewed as part of an agency’s standard orientation process. Rather these sessions would be structured as long-term to ensure the creation and continuous use of strong communication links that would thereby establish a unique bridge between old and new.

Likewise, for the seasoned public sector employee, the Two-Way (PA) Transition Mentoring sessions could serve as a creative SKILLS RECYCLING opportunity. The young, new employee would be expected to offer insight and ideas to current employees on the extended value of new technologies to the field of public service. For example, instead of the staff negatives that eventuate from the additional data collection forms that appear on program service computer screens, new outreach, client connectivity, low-cost marketing, and public assistance announcement techno-opportunities may be discussed. By taking early staff development action, individual “change-challenge” concerns could be positively discussed and progressively addressed.

The profession of public administration/public service… especially on the front-line is immersed in a Transition of Age that needs a pro-active, preventive maintenance, continuous improvement, multi-action personnel development approach. The approach must understand that seasoned staff feel “service experience” is the greatest public service delivery asset, while new staff believe “technology-based service” offers the greatest potential for new-age client assistance. Is anyone wrong? Is everyone right?  Is there a need to communicate and understand the client service value of both perspectives and bridge the Transition of Age gap through possibly introducing a national center for public service innovation online system and facilitating ongoing Two-Way (PA) Transition Mentoring? YES!


Author: Marvin N. Pichla, Ph.D., is the owner and creative adviser of Inspiring Innovations, Inc. Sharing his unique entrepreneurship and innovation in public service experience, Marv consults with public and private business, education and community organizations to develop new and different problem-solving methods through real-life, example-based learning. Email: [email protected], @TRIPLEIIITIME

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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