How State & Local Governments Can Attract a New Generation of Workers

A rising tide has changed the way companies across the United States think about their office spaces.

And it’s not solely about the space itself, but what it’s used for.

Companies are thinking bigger. The new generation of workers wants to work for a business that has his or her best interests in mind, and has thoughtfully created a space that promotes collaboration and flexibility.

“An increasing number of companies have adopted this new mindset,” said Lindsey Schulke, Director of Public Sector Sales for The HON Company.

Research shows that small businesses and startups are focusing on attracting millennial workers; this generation favors open settings, and wants the workplace to be friendly, collaborative, and inviting. The private sector has led the charge, re-inventing its workspaces to attract that new wave of young talent.

Talent attraction for the public sector has been a challenge, but it’s a fixable problem. In order to plot a creative and strategic path forward, we first need to rewind back to the root of the issue and identify where change can be made.


Time for Change

In our experience, many government office spaces are outdated by modern employee standards, with segregated offices, high-walled cubicles, and no easy spaces for collaboration. Studies show that today's workforce is looking for something much more inspiring—and a fresh, updated office space may be just the key to attracting new, young talent.

This coordinates with what experts are calling the “silver tsunami”: the baby boomer generation is quickly reaching retirement age, with more than 10,000 people turning 65 years old each day.

Given this unparalleled and unstoppable surge toward retirement of valuable tenured employees, local governments must proactively put a plan in place to begin hiring and onboarding the next generation of local government employees before knowledge transfer opportunities are gone. –Civic Plus

It’s critical for public sector employers to be prepared for a new generation of millennial workers—and most importantly, to understand what entices those workers to consider a job opening.

HON/Marketing Resources/

The Space Is Part of the Interview

“For the previous generation of workers in this sector, the interview was more of a one-way process,” said Schulke.

But for younger workers, the workspace is now their first impression. When they walk through the doors for the first time, what they lay eyes on could have a significant impact on their decision to join the team—or not.

Now it has become a two-way interview. The job seeker is evaluating you and your space as much as you’re evaluating him or her.

“There’s competition in the workforce and for younger people, in general,” said Schulke. “Spaces can tell a story that you may not be able to tell in an interview setting. It’s a vibe or a perception that you can give to the worker that really makes a difference.”

The next logical question is: how can you give off the right vibe?


Energizing the Space & the New Generation

Commercial trends across various industries are now informing and educating the design of workspaces. Today, 81% of employers consider the workplace environment important to attract top talent, and to retain current talent.

Salary is only one aspect under consideration. Millennial workers consistently say that the opportunity to work with like-minded people, having flexibility in their work style and schedule, and an approachable working space are top priorities when looking for a job, according to Schulke.

HON Design Tip: Current generations are more interested in positions that require collaboration and group work, as well as those within office environments that feature bright, bold colors—which is the opposite of how many government offices are set up.

Rather than trying to attract new, younger talent, it’s wise to approach this with a slightly different lens. It’s about energizing them.

Your space can do that. This is a major change for many offices but it’s a necessary one, and The HON Company team has a wealth of experience working with government and public sector agencies to start the conversation. It’s easier than you may think, too.

HON/Marketing Resources/

Furnished and Designed for Success

Furniture is a big selling point for your space.

It’s one aspect that sells what the workspace is truly like. It helps prospective employees understand what typical days look and feel like, and how people interact (or don't).

When it comes to choosing furniture to give them the best idea of what work life will be like at your office, consider the following:

Ergonomics: It may sound simple, but workers want the right type of task chair, one that’s built to support someone who sits all day. From research, we know it’s not good to sit or stand all day; employees should be able to move around and switch things up.

Style: Success starts with lounge-type casual seating, tables, ottomans, etc. Including these throughout the office and pairing them with height-adjustable workstations promotes flexibility and freedom. This is what the next generation expects from the workspace.

Structure: The goal is to find a happy medium between a space that allows for heads-down desk work and collaboration. The design and layout of the office space is important, as it should include a variety of options, styles, and spaces for different types of work. 

HON/Marketing Resources/

HON Design Tip: Choose bright colors that embrace your agency or brand and its strategy, and that tie in with the state or city’s seal.

Thanks to a rapidly changing workforce, many organizations have adjusted how they view recruitment, and their tactics often include a refreshed office space.

Companies can tackle talent attraction and recruitment head on with a carefully crafted design, look, and feel of their spaces. As mentioned above, things like ergonomics, structure, and style—both of the space and its furniture—are essential components to creating an environment where this generation of workers will feel at home for years to come.