Generations X and Z are starting to play crucial roles in the Federal workforce and agencies must consider generational values to understand what causes people to stay in or leave the Federal workforce.

At the ServiceNow Federal Forum 2022 on March 10, researchers from the Partnership for Public Service discussed a new research project they’re working on to understand employee retention when it comes to Generation X and Generation Z employees in the Federal government.

“As multiple generations inhabit the workplace together, it’s really important to understand these different dynamics of each generation and what causes people to stay or leave in the Federal workforce,” said Mikayla Hyman, associate manager of the Research, Evaluation, and Analysis Team at the Partnership for Public Service.

“Evidence indicates that different generations have broadly different work expectations and career pathways. And to maintain a strong and resilient public sector, we’ll definitely need to understand these dynamics going forward,” Hyman added.

Paul Pietsch, the senior manager of the Research, Evaluation, and Analysis Team at the Partnership for Public Service, explained that it’s important for managers to understand what employee engagement means for Gen X and Gen Z if they want to retain staff.

Pietsch explained that generational characteristics for Generation X – currently people 42 to 57 years old – include work-life balance, mentoring and entrepreneurship, informal and quick communication, desiring feedback, and questioning rules.

As for Generation Z – currently people 25 years old and under – Pietsch said their generational characteristics include flexibility, desiring mentoring and teamwork, increasingly independent, comfortable with technology, and seeking variegated careers.

During the March 10 event, Hyman and Pietsch also heard from members of the audience on what they value at work and what makes them leave a job.

One member of the audience, who works for the Federal government, said she believed the biggest driver of Gen X turnover is having negative experiences.

Another member of the audience, who is a member of Gen Z, said she believed better alternatives and money were the biggest drivers of Gen Z turnover.

“Very few of us had an opportunity to join the workforce before the pandemic, so we don’t have company loyalty, not to mention we’re straddled with debt,” she said.

“If you want the life anything similar to maybe your older siblings or your parents, you got to go somewhere else,” she added. “If you’re not paying enough, if you don’t have PTO, if you don’t have opportunities to get certifications, it’s just not going to keep us because we’ve got to pay for our loans, and we would like to own a car and house one day.”

As Gen X moves into leadership roles, and Gen Z becomes the predominant demographic in the workforce, Hyman and Pietsch said it is vital for employers to understand these values so they can do best by their employees.

Hyman and Pietsch said they will publish a final paper with their complete research findings in October.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.