July 19, 2013
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In today’s environment where government service is not valued by the American public or Congress, what are the incentives that make government service attractive to the current/next generation of the “best and brightest?”
In this column I have mentioned several times how difficult today’s environment is for federal employees. Three years of wage freezes, an austere fiscal environment (even before sequestration), a public and Congress that frequently act in ways hostile to government workers--all of which send a message: the federal workforce is not valued. But, even for those who advocate a dramatic shrinking of the size of the federal workforce, new hires are and will be needed. One has to wonder in such an environment how the government is going to attract the best and the brightest. What incentives make government employment attractive?
In the current federal epoch, it is more than likely that government will be unable to attract great talent for all but a few positions. In a prior posting, I described how people tend to be motivated by economic, social and emotional, and ideological factors . Reviewing these factors provides insight into why current incentives, on the whole, discourage the best and the brightest from applying for federal positions.
Although not an encouraging assessment of the incentives available for attracting the current generation of talented workers to federal employment, encouraging news is on the horizon. Like all epochs of history, current ones end and new ones begin. The painful process of downsizing and reconfiguring the federal government will continue; but these efforts eventually will subside. In the next epoch, expect many opportunities in the federal government that will attract the best and the brightest: much responsibility at a young age, rapid advancement, and improved training especially around leadership. Indeed, these features of future federal job opportunities will be the logical conclusion of the massive retirement wave now rippling through the federal government.
In sum, attracting great talent to the federal government will remain a challenge until the age of austerity has ended. The current incentives simply are not very attractive to the most desirable candidates. But these incentives will change at some point and once again the federal government will be an attractive option for future generations of the best and the brightest.
Duce a mente (May you lead by thinking),
July 19, 2013