How To Stop Losing Government’s Top Innovative Talent

We recently wrote about the challenges federal agencies are facing when it comes to attracting top tech talent. When you’re competing with Silicon Valley, it can be hard to demonstrate to those A-level candidates how incredible the work you’re doing really is.

We talked about the importance of defining your vision, strategy, and tactics, in addition to creating an environment for success and taking advantage of all the tools at your disposal. But, getting top talent isn’t the end of the road — because once you manage to get those people in the door, you’ve got to find a way to keep them.

Lacking in talent is extremely costly

One of the primary reasons government agencies should strive to keep more of their top talent comes down to the numbers. The federal government lags behind the private sector in many areas, including how they use digital technology to administer services (both internally and externally). The main reason for this lag? Government agencies simply don’t have enough staff or leadership with the current technical expertise required to fix critical services and develop more innovative and cost-effective solutions.

According to OPM’s 2017 data, the government’s talent pool is severely misaligned with industry. According to their research, less than 3% of full-time IT professionals are under thirty, and 51% are over the age of fifty. When you compare that to the numbers in the commercial sector, the difference is staggering — roughly 75% of global industry professionals are under the age of 35.

What is the solution here?

If government agencies want a real shot at modernization, it’s going to start with finding real solutions to the ongoing staffing struggles. Getting people with the right skills and mindset is step one, but keeping those people long-term is just as important.

Here are some expert tips on how to keep those top tech talents engaged, happy, and committed to your mission:

  1. Give them top cover, always. Be their advocate and help to knock down those walls that exist in government. It’s too easy for departments like legal and finance to say “NO!” to every request or idea that comes from innovators, so you need to get in front of it.
  2. Show them you buy into their ideas and initiatives, and prove you’ll go to bat for them when the time comes by actually doing it.
  3. Give them leeway to try new things without being punished when they fail. I say when — not if — because failure is a natural part of trying new things. If it isn’t acceptable to fail, innovation simply won’t happen.
  4. Support them in their goals and help them grow and develop their careers. Get them speaking on panels, having new experiences, and teach them how to think outside the box.
  5. Help them to identify their own personal value proposition. Ensure they can define (and genuinely understand and appreciate) the IMPACT they can have through their work. Their job can’t be about the tasks they complete — if you want people to be fulfilled, it’s got to be about more than that.

So don’t forget — getting great talent in the door is only half the battle. Once you’ve got them, you need to do the work to keep them if they’re going to truly have a positive impact on the agency and mission.

Use these tips to help keep your staff engaged, fulfilled, and onboard!

Subscribe to receive a monthly roundup of all things tech & government →