Some Agencies Are Making Headway on Luring Millennials

Senate panel bemoans lengthy time-to-hire and still burdensome USAJOBS site.

At Home Depot, forklift operators can apply for jobs and get hired in 72 hours, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., instructed an Office of Personnel Management official at a Thursday hearing. “But in a government warehouse, it takes up to three months before he hears back.”

That won’t do much to attract the millennial generation so needed to offset the government’s coming retirement wave, Lankford said, noting that millennials—definitions vary but all are under age 40—are now only 16 percent of the government workforce. Surveys show that this age group is turned off by the lengthy and cumbersome hiring process; the General Schedule system’s “rigidity that treats everyone the same;” and jobs that are often “unrewarding,” where “incentives to excel are rare,” Lankford said.

What’s worse, a Government Accountability Office official told the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Federal Management Subcommittee, “The increase of the number of millennials of working age has coincided with several events in the federal government—such as hiring freezes, sequestration, furloughs and a 3-year freeze on statutory annual pay adjustments from 2011 to 2013—that OPM and others contend negatively affected federal employee morale and limited opportunities for new employees to join the federal government.”

The time it takes to be hired for a federal job is 100 days on average, Lankford said at the hearing titled “Understanding the Millennial Perspective in Deciding to Pursue and Remain in Federal Employment.” In the business world today, he told four witnesses, “decisions are made quickly. And while the acting OPM chief wants to [bring the] hiring time down to 60 days, the private sector can hire in a week.”

The federal government “is different from other employment sectors,” replied Mark Reinhold, OPM’s assistant director for employee services and chief human capital officer. “The principles that make us different include the need for fair and open competition—we have to put an announcement out on the street.” The need for background investigations, he added, “also makes us unique.”

The OPM representative laid out an array of actions agencies are taking to address the millennial problem, including the Pathways Program for students and recent graduates and seeking to improve employee engagement as measured by the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. 

 “People under 35 represented about 44 percent of new hires into federal service in fiscal 2015, which notably, is higher than the percentage of people under age 35 in the overall U.S. Civilian Labor Force,” he testified.

 “The federal government continues to be a leader in providing employment opportunities to minorities; as of 2015, minorities represented almost 36 percent of the federal workforce, which is greater than the percentage of minorities within the U.S. Civilian Labor Force,” Reinhold said. The Senior Executive Service also is more diverse than ever before.

But he met skepticism when he touted recent improvements to the USAJOBS website, “the face of federal hiring.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., the panel’s ranking member, said people “are still frustrated that platform is burdensome, a turnoff, and [that] the first impression we make [is] not usually good.” She said the government isn’t doing “enough to reach out, and is waiting for them to come to us. There’s a big difference between being recruited because you add to the mission,” she said, and merely being offered a job with good benefits that’s mildly exciting, but leaves them asking, “Do they want me?”

The OPM official said USAJOBS is a platform while the recruiting is done by agencies, which know where the jobs and talent pools are.

 For the past year the site’s webmasters have been “iteratively transforming USAJobs into a better job-seeking experience, one that is agile,” Reinhold said. They’ve been rolling out applications with enhancements every six weeks, and then they collect user satisfaction data. “We have talked to millennials and created a mobile-friendly Web site.” It includes a new profile dashboard that asks first-time visitors to “tell us a bit about yourself,” he explained. Then the user can upload a resume and is ready to press buttons and apply when they locate an attractive job. Previously, they had to find a job listing and then figure out what to do next, he said.

Reinhold also told Heitkamp that OPM has reached out to 150 colleges and universities as well as high schools with material on how to use USAJOBS, and is now collecting data on where most applications come from. The Pathways program for mostly summer interns and student employees has hired 35,000 since 2012, he added, and is “paying off in diversity.” Surveys show “93 percent say they want to stay in government.”

OPM’s Hiring Excellence initiative unveiled in April with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel has held 32 in-person workshops nationwide, Reinhold reported. It has reached nearly 1,200 hiring managers and human resources professionals from over 25 agencies to share best practices, tips, and techniques for improving federal hiring.

Lankford ticked off a list of OPM hiring initiatives going back to 2008, noting some that targeted students and veterans. “Seems like every year we have a new initiative” he said. Yet the hiring time in 2013 was 90 days, in 2014 it was 94 days, and in 2015 it was 99.6 days. “It’s getting longer,” the senator noted, except at the Homeland Security Department, which has improved its average hiring time, though at 124 days, it is still longer than the government average. 

Most of those initiatives had a special purpose, Reinhold said. Hiring Excellence “brings it all together.” Surveys, he added, show that managers are not always satisfied with the help they get from human resources. What’s needed is collaboration in a more holistic approach.”

Angela Bailey, the longtime OPM veteran who since January has been chief human capital officer at Homeland Security, gave examples of reasons for her department’s improvement in hiring times. “In July 26-27 of this year, the department hosted the DHS Cyber and Tech Job Fair here in Washington, D.C. We received over 14,000 applications to five DHS-wide job announcements, interacted with several thousand candidates, conducted approximately 840 interviews and made 326 tentative job offers during and immediately following the fair.” 

In addition, she said, “One of the ways DHS engages millennials is through initiatives such as the Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative, which provides students pursuing cybersecurity-related degrees with an opportunity to work with top DHS cybersecurity professionals.”

She also recommended an expansion of a “Passport” program that would allow federal employees to move in and out of government more readily to gain private sector education.

Lauren Leo, assistant administrator at the office of Human Capital Management at NASA, attributed her agency’s success in recruiting millennials to positive employee engagement survey scores. “The potential to work on NASA’s exciting mission attracts a wide variety of prospective employees, including those from the millennial generation. We strive to create an environment at NASA in which all employees feel valued and have opportunities to contribute to the NASA mission. This requires understanding the different styles, values and expectations of everyone in our workforce.”

The primacy of employee engagement was the chief recommendation of Robert Goldenkoff, director of strategic issues for the GAO. “The tone starts the top,” he said. “OPM is taking steps in the right direction, he said, stressing the importance of data and “a whole suite of metrics, such as time to hire, quality of candidates, manager satisfaction and employee diversity.”

Lankford said he is still concerned that the current system produces situations in which managers are “locked in a box” and sometimes forced to hire the second-best candidate. “But we’re not here to play ‘Gotcha,’ ” he said, anticipating some fresh insights from people leaving government during the coming presidential transition. The conversation is to determine “how can we work together.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.