As the veterans and baby boomers prepare to make their graceful

exits from the full-time federal workforce, agencies are exploring

the best ways to pass the torch to the next generation

of federal employees. In the next five years, 44 percent of all

federal workers will be eligible to retire, and 61 percent will reach eligibility

four years later. In addition, nearly 90 percent of six thousand federal

executives will be eligible to retire in the next ten years, and one million

federal workers may retire by 2010.

In the middle of this transition, Generations X and Y are striving to

demonstrate their readiness for increasing responsibility and leadership

roles. At the same time, baby boomers are finding creative ways to continue

to contribute beyond retirement, through consulting with their former

or other federal agencies and training others in their areas of expertise.

Agencies are instituting plans and programs to ensure that the transition

is smooth, including exploring internships and recruitment activities that

attract younger workers.

However, recruitment efforts are not limited to young people. Several

initiatives are targeting individuals who are currently employed in

the private or nonprofit sectors, enticing them with opportunities for quick

promotion and promising career paths. Other agencies are conducting

focused skills gap analysis followed by a targeted knowledge exchange


The Graduate School, USDA, offers a workshop, Generation Shift: The

Emerging Federal Workforce, which explores this phenomenon and offers solutions

to address it. The three-hour course encourages participants to reevaluate

how they look at the generations and recommends ways to meet each

groups needs and career goals.The Generations

For the first time in our nations history, four generations

are making an impact on the workforce. Most of

the veterans are retired and some of the baby boomers are

beginning to make their break from the full-time workforce.

However, some boomers will be working for another

ten to fifteen years.

The following subsections and Table 1 describe some

general traits of the four generations, but in examining their

work styles and aspirations, remembering not to stereotype

them is important. People are individuals and should not

be placed in boxes, and clearly not everyone in a generation

will exhibit the traits described. These characteristics

are merely guidelines for understanding some of the dynamics

that affect relationships in the office.


The veterans, or G.I. generation, fall into two segments.

G.I. Generation

Tom Brokaw called this segment, born between 1901

and 1925, The Greatest Generation in his book of the

same name. The G.I. Generation fought two world wars

and survived the Great Depression. Civic virtue is important

to this group as well as church, club, and community


Silent Generation

This segment was born between 1926 and 1945. Some

were too young to remember the Depression or serve during

World War II. However, they were influenced by the patriotism

and self-sacrifice of the time. Today, the youngest

among them are in their sixties and may still be working,

but they are approaching eligibility for retirement.

Baby Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1964, boomers are considered

loyal and hardworking. As demonstrated during the

1960s, many in this group question authority and institutions.

They prefer autonomy, are well educated, and often

have higher income levels than their parents. Boomers

seek to ensure that office policies and procedures are enforced

in a balanced and equitable manner.

Generation X

Generation X was born between 1965 and 1981. They

value flexibility and balance in work/life relationships. They

prefer direct, personal communication from all in an institution,

regardless of title or position. They observe the

rapidly changing world.

Generation Y/Millennials

Generation Y, referred to as millennials among other things,

are the newest members of the workforce, born between 1982

and 2003. They grew up with technology and never knew

a time without cell phones and the Internet. They often think

in bullet points and are ravenous researchers. Speed is important

and they prefer rapid feedback.

Workplace Solutions

Why outline some of the characteristics of the generations?

They are all working together, and the multi-generational

differences in attitudes and styles related to work can

create conflict. In a recent case study by the Society for Human

Resource Management, human resource experts describe

some options for addressing these potential conflicts:

Ensure that company policies are applied and enforced consistently

across the organization. For instance, younger

generations may take advantage of flexi-work or

telecommuting arrangements, which boomers could

perceive as a lack of work ethic or an inequality in

the implementation of this benefit. Make sure the

parameters are understood by all employees.

Refine a mentoring program and find champions in each

age group. When you think of mentors, you may

picture an older member of your team. Consider

using younger workers as well. Many have an appropriate

combination of experience and knowledge


that well suits them for an advisory role with

colleagues of any age.

Create forums for employees to connect. Sometimes employees

need to spend time together outside the

pressure of specific assignments. In fact, these situations

provide the best opportunity for employees to

learn about one another and recognize their common

experiences. Of course, the differences may be

interesting as well, so facilitate conversations on a

range of topics from technology to music to memorable

historical events. Everyone may be surprised

by the number of shared perspectives.

Begin with the business issues rather than the people

issues. Meet with managers to learn about work requirements and make decisions on the basis of the

business needs of the organization. Then address

the values conflicts from the perspective of the

most efficient and effective way to get the work

done so that all employees feel they are making

comparable contributions.

Focus on the teams common goals and how unique perspectives

can lead to optimal results. Do you have departmental

goals that are shared by all employees in

a unit? What have you accomplished as a team that

makes people proud? What are the common challenges?

These kinds of questions focus less on the

differences and more on the shared vision. The

next step may include the administration of an assessment,

such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator,

to understand the varying characteristics that make

the sum greater than its individual parts. Help your

team gain a sense of mutual appreciation for the

unique contributions of each team member, regardless

of age.

Conduct a survey. Sometimes the best option is to

provide employees with a forum to describe their

experiences. You may want to distribute a survey

and ask employees to complete and return it

anonymously, or schedule a time with each individual

and ask the same series of questions. With

this information in hand, you can better address

the specific circumstances of your team.

Recruitment Practices

As a significant portion of the federal workforce becomes

eligible for retirement or seeks to change its fulltime

status to part-time or contract, the federal government

needs to come up with inventive strategies for recruiting

new employees. The key is continually upgrading

recruitment efforts to communicate effectively with

each generation to fill job requirements. Here are some

proven strategies that can be explored.

Veterans and Boomers

These two groups already have incentive to work for

the federal government. They have been involved in this

type of work for years; are familiar with the rules, regulations,

and work environment; and want to serve out

their terms. Hiring them back as consultants is a plus.

Terms and conditions can be worked out individually.

Their experience is invaluable, and they can mentor

younger workers.Generations X and Y

These generations want to hear the benefits of federal

government employment. Here are a few items to


General wage increases

Increased locality pay

Expansion of benefits

Growth in high-paid jobs as workers extend careers.

Generations X and Y change jobs more frequently

(every 2.8 years). According to a George Washington University

survey, less than one in ten Phi Beta Kappa college

graduates rate the government as their first choice

for employment.

The Next Generation

Communicate with the next generation of federal

workers in the way they wish to receive information. Use

more predictive applicant assessment tools. Implement balanced

recruitment strategies, not only passive Internet postings

or a narrow pool of college job fairs. Market what

is important about the job and expectations. Evaluate

agency hiring processes. Always avoid stereotyping applicants

by generational assumptions.

Quick List

Here is a top ten list for recruiting Generations X and

Y (and everyone else in the job market):

1. Provide career coaching and direct support.

2. Give special recognition for achievement.

3. Increase compensation regularly, especially after key


4. Give increased or new responsibilities.

5. Give best hires new titles/promotions at least once

every two years.

6. Cultivate an informal work environment.

7. Establish formal extracurricular/learning time.

8. Provide a diverse set of job responsibilities.

9. Feature special project assignments.

10. Offer formal rotation programs.