Millennials leaving government over lack of innovation, study finds

If federal agencies want to get ahead of the shutdown culture in Washington and attract recent college graduates to work for them, it won’t be through a ‘business as usual’ approach, a new study cautions.

Agencies more willing to take on innovative projects and ideas are more likely to get the attention of millennials looking for jobs, according to a follow-up study to the 2014 Best Places to Work report.

“The current operating environment of budget cuts and hiring slowdowns, as well as the need to become more efficient and improve government service delivery requires that federal agencies develop innovative new ways of doing business,” said a new report from the Partnership for Public Service, Deloitte and the Hay Group.

For a few agencies like NASA, which was awarded the top innovation ranking for large agencies for the fifth year in a row, the report was largely an acknowledgement of a job well done. But with the governmentwide innovation score slipping for the third consecutive year, the results show that agency innovation is more the exception than the rule.

“A handful of federal agencies are focused on helping their workforces innovate. These agencies are developing innovative cultures by rewarding creativity, by providing forums for employees to share and test new ideas, by encouraging responsible risk-taking and by bringing in outside talent for rotational assignments to infuse new ideas into the workplace,” the study said. “Government-wide employee survey data, however, suggests that much more needs to be done to foster innovation at many federal organizations.”

In a survey by Deloitte, 67 percent of 3,200 millennials polled said a reputation for innovation and creativity played a role in where they looked for jobs. Based on survey data from the Hay Group, private sector employees rated their companies 14 percent higher than what government employees rated their agencies.

The report endorsed a proposal in President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget that would create “idea labs” at five agencies, a pilot program meant to test out new projects thought up by agency employees and foster “a culture of innovation that yields results.”

Click to view a larger version of the chart.

From 2013 to 2014, the governmentwide innovation score — based on a formula that factors in the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data — fell 0.5 percent to 58.9 percent. Overall, the score has fallen 4.4 percent since PPS started measuring it in 2010.

None of the top-ranked agencies in any category changed from last year’s report — NASA was named the most innovative large agency for the fifth year in a row, the Federal Trade Commision was named the top mid-size agency for the third year in a row and the Surface Transportation Board was again named the most innovative small agency.


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