Preparing For the Boomer-Millennial Seismic Shift in Government Law Offices: Part 4

December 9, 2014

Business people working in groupIn this blog series, we’re taking a close look at the boomer-millennial workforce shift in government, (specifically within the legal space), and how government leaders can overcome challenges and successfully plan for a new wave of millennial practitioners. In the last few posts, we offered suggestions for managing the transition of knowledge and expertise from retiring senior practitioners to new hires, as well as tips for attracting top legal talent from the millennial workforce.

Today we’ll cover another important aspect of government succession planning: retaining millennial talent.  Here are a few ideas that government leaders may want to consider:

Create professional development paths for new attorneys to grow into leadership positions

Some of the best practices for creating an attractive public sector workplace can be found in the agencies that won the Partnership for Public Service’s (PPS) 2013 Best Places to Work awards. In its analysis of survey results to determine these awards, PPS found that one survey question, regarding “effective leadership,” best predicted an agency’s overall rank. The “effective leadership” question measured the extent to which employees believe leadership at all levels of the organization generates motivation and commitment, encourages integrity, and manages people fairly, while also promoting the professional development, creativity and empowerment of employees.

The winner in the large agency category was NASA. NASA chief human capital officer Jeri

Buchholz attributed the agency’s success to an extensive focus on three key priority areas:

  1. Connecting people to each other and the mission
  2. Building model supervisors
  3. Recognizing and rewarding innovative performance

The winner among mid-size agencies was the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

(FDIC), which offers employees:

  • On-the-job and informal training sessions to maximize employee abilities
  • and broaden skills
  • Courses that help employees improve organizational performance
  • A career management program providing individual career counseling services
  • Support for participation in professional associations and paid conferences
  • Fully paid fellows and graduate programs for select nominees
  • External management training programs BOOMER-MILLENNIAL SEISMIC SHIFT
  • Tuition assistance for career-oriented classes in colleges, universities and professional schools
  • A mentoring program providing one-on-one partnering between junior employees and a more senior employee, offering new employees the opportunity to learn about FDIC within specific areas of interest from an experienced employee
  • An “Expression of Interest Program” enabling employees to assume new responsibilities (Source)

Ensure that junior attorneys are provided with significant legal practice experiences

Law scholar, William Henderson, one of the most influential people in legal education today, also found that law students who engage in immersive, recurring experiences in law practice were more engaged in the classroom, achieved accelerated professional development, and charted career paths more quickly. (Source)

Parallels exist in the training and acculturation of new attorneys in public sector law practice. Government legal offices should consider creating a scaffolded experience for new attorneys, with progressive stages of responsibility, offering direct, front-line experiences early on to engage entering professionals, but with strong mentoring initially and greater levels of responsibility and accountability over time.

We hope that these suggestions will encourage government leaders to consider new approaches to managing a new generation of millennial practitioners. In the next post, we’ll look at a few additional ways that government agencies can effectively transition to a primarily millennial workforce and attract and retain the top new legal talent.