How the Federal Government Can Attract Employees

attracting talent to the federal workforce

by Chelsea Jarosh, Industry Analyst

Nearly half of the federal workforce will be eligible to retire within the next five years (45%). Retirements can vary depending on a variety of factors, including economic conditions, workforce demographics, and individual retirement decisions. 

Alas, I am unable to predict future events. Therefore, I am unable to provide an accurate percentage of the federal workforce that will absolutely retire in five years. However, it is worth noting that the federal government, like many other organizations, is facing potential workforce challenges due to the aging of its workforce. Many federal employees are part of the baby boomer generation, which is reaching retirement age. The silver tsunami is expected to result in a significant number of retirements in the coming years. The federal government has been actively working to address succession planning and knowledge transfer to ensure a smooth transition as employees retire and new employees are hired. 

Attracting early-career talent to the federal workforce

Because the federal workforce is aging, there has been a huge emphasis around hiring early-career talent. In July 2023, the Biden administration announced its plans to create more opportunities for young people in the federal government. Their goal is to strengthen and empower the federal workforce by hiring 35,000 early-career talent and interns through the federal internship program in fiscal 2023. The overall purpose of hiring early-career talent would be to offset the impacts of the tenured experts retiring within the next five years.

The federal government has historically struggled to promote and leverage internship and partnership programs to attract early-career talent. Introduced on December 1, 2021, the Building the Next Generation of Federal Employees Act was implemented to expand access to federal internships, provide an internship preference, and allow federal agencies to reimburse student interns for their expenses. The purpose of the bill is to provide a pathway for interns that have successfully completed their internship to gain an advantage in the federal hiring process.

we need younger people in the federal workforce

10 ways the government can attract employees

The federal government can take several steps to bolster the federal workforce, including:

  1. Competitive Salaries. Offering competitive salaries on par with or exceeding the private sector can be a key factor in attracting top talent. The federal government should conduct regular market research to ensure that their salary scales are competitive and adjust them accordingly.
  2. Robust Benefits Packages. Providing comprehensive benefits packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off, can be appealing to potential employees. The federal government should ensure that its benefits packages are attractive and competitive to attract and retain highly qualified candidates.
  3. Professional Development Opportunities. Offering opportunities for professional growth and development can be a significant incentive for potential employees. Providing training programs, mentoring, and other forms of career development is important.
  4. Flexibility in Work Arrangements. Flexible work arrangements — telecommuting, flexible hours, and remote work options — can be attractive to employees seeking work-life balance. The federal government should consider implementing flexible work policies to accommodate the needs of its workforce.
  5. Clear Career Paths. Establishing clear career paths and advancement opportunities can encourage employees to join and stay with the federal government. Providing career progression plans, performance evaluations, and opportunities for promotion can motivate employees to excel in their roles.
  6. Workplace Culture. Creating a positive workplace culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion can be a significant factor in attracting employees. The federal government should promote a supportive and inclusive work environment where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered.
  7. Recruitment Marketing. Recruitment marketing strategies, such as targeted advertising, social media outreach, and branding, can help the federal government attract top talent. Highlighting the benefits and opportunities of working for the federal government can make it more appealing to potential employees.
  8. Streamlined Hiring Process. Lengthy and complex application procedures can be a deterrant to young talent. Simplifying and expediting the federal government’s hiring process can help. A streamlined and efficient hiring process can demonstrate the federal government’s commitment to attracting and retaining top talent.
  9. Mission and Purpose. Highlighting the impact employees can make through their work in the federal government can be a compelling motivator for candidates. Emphasizing the mission and purpose of the agency, and how it aligns with an individual’s values, can attract passionate employees.
  10. Work-Life Balance. Emphasizing work-life balance and promoting policies that support employees, such as flexible work hours, telecommuting options, and family-friendly policies, can be attractive to potential employees.

By implementing these strategies, the federal government can attract and retain top talent. This will ensure a capable and motivated federal workforce to serve the needs of the nation. 

Final Thoughts

The government and citizens suffer when the best and brightest talent choose to work for the private sector versus government. Not only is the lack of top talent an issue, but so is attracting early career-talent. Over the past few years, the federal government has seen a shift in an increasing age gap within the workforce. Civil service experts predict a catastrophic federal retirement surge. Yet, they do not have replacements lined up to fill the positions of experienced retirees. One potential answer is to implement the outlined strategies and streamline recruiting and hiring process. This will get us all to the next generation of federal employees poised for success. 


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