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State CIOs struggle to recruit and retain millennials

Kenneth Corbin | June 26, 2015
Think it’s tough to attract younger IT workers? Imagine what managers in the public sector face? Unable to match private-sector salary packages, state CIOs try to appeal to millennial' commitment to public service and offer flexible work environment to recruit.

As a recruiting strategy, he argues that CIOs can emphasize the merit of government service as a civic contribution, playing up the opportunity to tackle major social challenges that can be a compelling intangible that many companies in the private-sector cannot match.

"What we're trying to do is create an environment where people want to work for the state," Bengel says. "The ability to make a difference is really attractive for many people."

His team has been trying to hire millennials for lower-level positions, and then immerse them in an intensive training and career-development program once they're on board. That way, they can see the career path ahead of them, anticipate promotions and enjoy a sense that their employer is invested in them, all of which can engender loyalty and improve retention, Bengel explains.

In Maine, Smith says that partnering with universities and community colleges has become an effective way to bring younger workers into the pipeline. In Tennessee, the CIO's office has been building up its internship program, and has also had some success in engaging contract workers and transitioning them from temporary to permanent employees -- "to be able to drive before we buy," as Bengel puts it.

But once younger hires have been brought on board, Bengel argues that CIOs need to revisit the traditional approach to managing the workforce. Specifically, many millennials expect greater flexibility in how they work, he says, and government managers could improve their retention rates if they are more willing to accommodate -- within reason -- unorthodox schedules, so long as the employees get their work done.

"You're managing millennials more to tasks than hours," he says. "This is something that's new in government because we traditionally have only managed to butts in seats, and I think we need to manage more to accomplishment."


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