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The public sector is home to some of the oldest employees in the labour force. In fact, as of 2013, a quarter of Canada’s public servants were eligible for retirement. This is putting many agencies on the fast track toward a knowledge and leadership crisis—and this isn’t just a Canadian phenomenon. South of the border, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) estimates that since January 1, 2013, the experience being lost as federal workers retire equates to 10,000 years every day—and counting! You can actually watch the experience dwindle by the second with the site’s online ticker.To address this crisis, public sector human resource directors are looking for ways to mentor top talent for available government jobs. Governing Magazine lists this challenge as one of six big government management issues for 2015. Here are some methods your agency can use to cultivate its next generation of leaders:

  • Adopt a culture that attracts new talent: A recent survey found that eight in ten federal employees in the U.S. see their agency’s culture as the largest barrier to attracting and retaining talent. Here in Canada, the public service isn’t exactly known for being plugged into Millennial culture, either. What’s more, 80 percent of federal agencies have no set plan to recruit Millennials, which are projected to comprise 80 percent of the workforce by 2025. You can read about how to attract and recruit Millennials in one of our Blue Papers®, but here are some quick points: Millennials prefer a work environment that values training, provides an opportunity to lead, is flexible and offers work/life balance. When interviewing, provide Millennial job candidates a package of your benefits using a logo’d presentation folders. To further promote your agency’s healthy work/life balance and flexibility in a fun way, include a Daily Cube Calendar and bendable pen.
  • Organize a talent exchange initiative: Local government may benefit from a talent exchange program in which employees from different departments or agencies swap places to broaden their work experiences, gain leadership skills and network. Make new talent feel welcome by providing an experienced trainer who can show them the ropes. A logo’d travel mug and jotter can also help get your newbie through the first few days.
  • Develop a mentorship program: Mentors provide guidance, foster valuable connections, aid in career development and ease transitions into leadership roles. These relationships can be cultivated internally within departments or agencies, like the Department of Justice’s Mentoring Program. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can help kick start a broader mentorship initiative for Canadian bureaucrats, and model it after the American GovLoop Mentors Program, which connects public sector professionals across all agencies and levels for free! Regardless of which road your agency travels, mentorships can be a great way to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next.

As people leave top government jobs in alarming numbers, implementing ideas such as these will help your agency bridge the experience gap that may be left behind.

Gooderham, Mary. “As boomer bureaucrats retire, savvy entrepreneurs rejoice.The Globe and Mail. N.p., 23 Aug. 2012. Web. Retrieved 21 April 2015.

How Many Days of Federal Worker Experience Has America Lost Since January 1, 2013?National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE). N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 31 Mar. 2015.

“Federal Government Lagging on Millennial Recruitment, Leadership Development as Senior Leadership Retires.” Yahoo Finance. N.p., 12 Mar. 2015. Web. Retrieved 31 Mar. 2015.

Maciag, Mike. “Public Sector Has Some of Oldest Workers Set to Retire.Governing. N.p., 26 Aug. 2013. Web. Retrieved 31 Mar. 2015.

Government Mentorship Program | GovLoop.” GovLoop. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 31 Mar. 2015.


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