On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

The Federal Coach

Young gov leaders: Love them or lose them

Part of leadership is about creating the next generation of leaders.

It's easy to look at the younger generation -- with their high expectations and big demands -- and scoff. Yes, they have so much to learn, but they also have a lot to give. And with the baby-boom retirement wave on the horizon, federal managers need to lay the foundation for the future by developing their young employees.

After spending some time last week at the Next Generation of Government Summit hosted by the social networking site GovLoop and by the professional organization Young Government Leaders, I was left thinking how strong our government will be if we effectively harness the intelligence, creativity, drive and enthusiasm of this up-and-coming group of employees.

The fact is we need to find ways to make young government leaders stay and grow in government. Here are five ideas for retaining your younger employees while grooming them to lead:

Focus on the firsts - The first day, the first week, and the first month. These are important milestones for any employee, but particularly for a young person who will quickly determine whether this job is the right place to start - and continue - a career. Make a checklist for each of these firsts. What equipment do they need in place on the first day? What do they need to learn in the first week? What conversations should you have with them in the first month?

Keep them inspired . This generation is especially idealistic and driven to make a difference. Keep that fire lit, not only with words of encouragement, but by making sure they know exactly how their work fits in to your agency's mission.

Tap their brains. Mark my words, if you don't keep your younger employees challenged and on their intellectual toes, you will lose them. Asking them for new ideas, feedback and to engage in problem-solving will help everyone. They'll be excited about their work, and you'll benefit from their fresh perspective.

Show them the path to leadership - It used to be the norm that someone might work in the same place for decades. Not anymore. Younger people today are restless and are not afraid to take risks and seek new opportunities. Help stem the turnover tide by showing them exactly how they can advance. If you can get them excited by the challenge of making it to the next level, you'll keep them on board and they'll work harder.

Pair them up.
There is much to be said about the value of experience and for utilizing that experience to groom the next generation. Create a fulfilling experience for everyone by pairing interested, long-term employees with newbies.

If we fail to view our youngest employees as the next generation of government leaders, we will not only lose them, but we will lose the potential for all the great contributions they could do for our country.

Whether you're a current leader -- or a next-gen leader -- what do you think agencies should be doing to retain and prepare their future leaders? Please send me your comments and ideas to fedcoach@ourpublicservice.org.

Please check back on Wednesday, when I interview Joe Ferrara, Associate Dean of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.

By Tom Fox

 |  July 12, 2010; 6:52 AM ET |  Category:  Getting Ahead Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Walking in another's shoes | Next: Joe Ferrara: Get yourself in the room


Please email us to report offensive comments.

The "future leaders" don't want pep talks or prolonged "mentoring." They want to leap up the ladder. The main obstacle is the experienced people who preceded them.

If some younger workers can't tolerate slow ascent, is it any great loss if they jump ship? The fact that they have that option at all suggests that being young isn't so bad.

How to decide whether to pick a "young tiger" or "seasoned lion" for an executive vacancy? This article insinuates that mature workers don't exist, that they don't "have what it takes," or should surrender any ambitions as the years pass.

"Age discrimination" against the young is real when they have no training or work history. But time, and trials at entry level slots, eventually cure that. But does there then come a point when the market should favor youth over experience? In fact, that does happen. But is it efficient or right?

Young workers' "morale problem" can be only a fraction of that of older ones who face an impasse or job loss. No one is told "you are too old." There is a perfectly legal euphemism to summarily reject people over 40: "over-qualified."

Posted by: jkoch2 | July 13, 2010 9:45 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company