Preparing for the Boomer-Millennial Seismic Shift in Government Law Offices: Part 1

November 12, 2014

Business people working in groupAs thousands of baby boomers retire each day, there’s no question that the much anticipated retirement tsunami is upon us. We are consequently about to experience a change among all levels of government legal organizations – from senior leadership and executive management to critical service specialists to technologists and interagency connectors – all of whom are vital to the successful operation of the public sector.

A new generation of millennial workers is entering the government legal sector with tech-era skill sets, innovative ideas, collaborative mentalities and a desire to learn and lead. To prepare for and adjust to this generational workforce shift, government agencies must develop a strategic approach, one that accomplishes two main goals:

  1. Preserve the knowledge and transfer the expertise of deeply experienced personnel to a new-generation workforce
  2. Create a workplace environment that is attractive to millennial workers and will foster innovative approaches to the public sector delivery of legal services

In this blog series, we’ll offer suggestions for how government agencies can accomplish these two goals and foster a successful workplace in the coming years.

Preserving Knowledge and Expertise through Direct Interaction Knowledge Transfer

Extensive, direct interaction between senior and junior attorneys is essential to effectively transfer the range of knowledge, expertise and nuanced situational awareness held by senior practitioners. Governing.com has suggested several methods for Direct Interaction Knowledge Transfer to help government agencies accomplish this goal, including:

  • Internal sabbaticals. A person is put in a temporary new position to learn the ropes of something completely different from his or her normal job.
  • Talent exchange programs. Communities switch employees, giving each the opportunity to participate in a “stretch position” for three months in another community to experience how it works.
  • Management fellowship or internship programs. These can take a variety of forms, including full-year programs that provide diverse on-the-job training.
  • Phased retirement. These programs enable pending retirees to transition from front-line to educational and advisory roles

Direct Interaction Knowledge Transfer has proven to be successful for several government agencies including Fort Collins, CO., who, in 2010, was expecting a record high number of retirees from its utilities department over the next ten years. You can read the full story here.

Embedded in Direct Interaction Knowledge Transfer methods is the idea that structured, intentional contact and collaboration between new and experienced attorneys can cultivate the capacities of a new workforce. Even with robust, effective mentoring and professional development programs, however, government law offices will still need to enable new workers to access prior knowledge, both case histories and legal team notations and insights, once senior personnel retire.

In the next post, we’ll discuss effective tools and methods for retaining knowledge and expertise once senior attorneys have retired.