Learning & Development, Recruiting

How Gen Z Can Bridge the Public Sector Labor Gap

While many industries in the private sector have embraced workforce flexibility and frequent job changes, public sector careers have mostly retained incentives for longer tenure, including pensions. While at first glance this may not seem like an advantage for attracting and retaining a Gen Z workforce now famous for “job hopping” and “fearless quitting,” the more traditional model of employee retention still embraced in the public sector may uniquely appeal to the digital natives in today’s workforce.

Public Sector Appeal

To understand why public sector careers may offer unique appeal to Gen Z, it’s essential to understand that the generation’s penchant for job hopping and fearless quitting comes not from a desire for frequent change to get ahead, but from disappointment in firms’ unwillingness to invest in employees for the long haul. Gen Z employees become frustrated when paths for advancement and compensation are unclear, the training they receive is not transferable, and their personal mission and values do not align with their work.

Together with a focus on robust and long-range benefits like pensions, the public sector’s standardized compensation and advancement with pay schedules and codified raises appeals to a digital native generation used to having all the information at their fingertips. While public sector pay is lower on average than private sector equivalents, work for governments offers unique opportunities to do meaningful work, from serving in the military and administering social services to helping protect the environment.

What’s the catch?

While public sector jobs should appeal to Gen Z from this theoretical perspective, the reality is that state and local governments and federal agencies are falling short of private firms in attracting and retaining talent.

In spite of a basic benefits and employment framework that could appeal to Gen Z employees, public organizations are failing to choose effective areas for investment to actually attract and retain the talent they need. The solutions to this problem are many, including the need to better communicate to candidates how a career of public service is uniquely geared to meeting the desires of today’s workforce, and streamlining the hiring process—But here we’ll focus on how eLearning platforms can help public entities better engage digital natives in the work of public service.

Big, old, and bureaucratic

A stumbling block for public organizations in attracting Gen Z employees is the government’s reputation for being slow-moving, complicated, and old-fashioned. While digital native workers may balk at excessive process, unnecessary meetings, and traditional practices around performance reviews (all of which public sector work can be rife with), the core source of stress for Gen Z workers isn’t these practices in themselves, but the uncertainty that accompanies them. What is the point of this meeting? Why must I wait another six months to know how I’m performing? Why is this process important?

There are often good answers to these kinds of questions. To engage Gen Z workers, government entities must be better at communicating them to their employees.

A Gen-Zer’s Guide to the Government

While processes and procedures can be slow or impossible to change, quality training on navigating them can reduce the stress-inducing uncertainty that turns off the digital native workforce. Gen Z is used to navigating complex institutions including the education system—but they work best with an integrated, comprehensive digital resource to guide them.

Firms specialize in building custom learning environments on the foundation of trusted platforms like Adobe Learning Manager. This Headless LMS architecture offers the best combination of security, reliability, and the customization necessary to create an integrated, comprehensive guide to navigating work at a government agency.

Comprehensive and Integrated

Public organizations should adopt initiatives to integrate their existing e-learning resources into a single environment logically organized by what employees need to do their jobs as well as navigate their careers.

This comprehensive, integrated environment should include:

  1. Structure around paths for advancement. The learning environment should clarify to learners how each module supports the organization’s investment in the employee today and in the future. Learning paths can be aligned with paths for advancement and communicate how learning and advancement can support the employee’s personal and professional goals.
  2. Workshops that communicate and align values. Conducting workshops that foster communication and alignment with the agency’s values is crucial. It’s vital for both employees and the public to grasp the essence of an agency’s mission and values. For Gen Z employees in particular, it’s essential to see a clear connection between their personal values and the organization’s mission. Engaging in this type of alignment and understanding is most effectively achieved through interactive workshops that are an integral part of the learning environment.
  1. Skills training is valuable in any context. Paradoxically, training employees in general skill sets applicable throughout an industry demonstrates honest investment in that individual beyond their potential contribution to one organization. Structurally, organization-specific training in processes and workflows should flow through this more generalized training.
  1. An experience that fosters a learning culture. The learning environment should be a touchpoint for training for employees at all levels. While the strategy may be to reach the needs of Gen Z employees, it must be clear throughout the organization that the learning and advancement pathways communicated to them through training are the same pathways open to everyone—that everyone’s playing the same game.
  1. Social and gamification features. Alongside playing the same game metaphorically, the learning environment can get everyone literally playing the same game. Social and gamified features like leaderboards and achievement badges help make work and learning fun—key to a cohort that values a blurry line between work and personal pursuits.
  2. Employee-level customization. Not everyone’s mission and values are the same. Consider including an introductory survey module that gauges which parts of the agency’s values and mission the employee connects most strongly with, as well as their individual learning preferences, and use this data to create a tailored experience.
  3. Robust security and privacy. In regulated industries like government, certifications including FedRAMP and StateRAMP are required by law. In particularly high-consequence areas like intelligence and the military, highly stringent certifications like the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) IL4 may be required.

Gen Z workers can be reached with an elearning platform that provides insight, understanding, connection, and that can serve as a playbook for their career. For public sector entities, the key to building this kind of platform successfully is to work with a service provider that has expertise both in designing effective custom learning environments and that already holds the certifications necessary to fulfill regulatory requirements.

Rob Porter is head of market and business development for CoSo’s eLearning solutions. He has a successful 25-year track record in instructional design and eLearning programs and has authored and presented on a variety of corporate topics and learning techniques. He has supported hundreds of enterprises by designing and deploying custom learning solutions that deliver content to millions of learners. He has developed state-of-the-art learning programs for organizations such as BMW, Nike, Nikon, Johns Hopkins, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Dassault, and Domino’s.

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