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The Millenial Issue

Deloitte’s federal government think tank GovLab published “Understanding Millenials in Government: Debunking myths about our youngest public servants,” on the difficulties inherent in attracting and retaining so-called Millenials (born between 1980 and and 1995) in the federal government.

While the report focuses on the American public service, many of the observations and recommendations would seem to hold true for the Canadian public service.


Base human capital and recruitment strategies on established customer segments, not on spurious generational differences.

The idea of shifting human capital strategies from large heterogenous generational groups and instead focus on “employee segments defined by lifetime milestones” appeals to me. This approach would eliminate effects relating to extended schooling, economic cycles, and shifting social mores.

Talent Management

While not covered directly in the report, a key concern voiced by many younger public servings relates to talent management. While I believe the Government of Canada still maintains its status as an employer of choice, many young public servants feel frustrated by the perceived lack of career growth options. In the 2014 Public Service Employee Survey, 22% of public servants 34 and under answered “Strongly Agree” to the question “My department or agency does a good job of supporting employee career development.”

The paucity of development programs, even among professional designations, coupled with the slow and archaic HR competition system can be very frustrating for new employees. I believe we have the ability to more closely tie development to progress and still maintain the fairness, accuracy, and transparency required of public service staffing.

The Community of Federal Regulators (GoC internal link) has done a great job on this front with the development of the Regulatory Career Pathway: Competencies Framework for Career Progression in Regulation Development (GoC internal link). The Pathway provides an excellent framework for discussing regulatory career planning and performance discussions. The CFR is also preparing to select the second cohort for their Regulatory Professional Development Program (GoC internal link). I would also like to see more Departments and Agencies establish (or resurrect) their internal development programs to help young professionals see their future in the public service.


The final recommendation would be to emphasize to the Government of Canada management community the benefits of the flexible work options already endorsed by the Treasury Board of Canda Secretariat. Telework, compressed schedules, flexible work hours, and many other options are clearly defined and policies exist for the fair implementation of flexible work options. Many managers are uncomfortable owing to a lack of familiarity. The private sector has become more flexible and the public service, to its credit, is prepared to be as well. We just need the culture to catch up.

Overall, I believe that the Government of Canada is the single best employer in the country, and one of the best in the world. I might be a little bit biased. I think we’re doing a great job at attracting, developing, and retaining the next generation of leaders, but that doesn’t mean we can’t meaningfully discuss ways to improve. What do you think the government is doing well right now? Where do you think we can improve?

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