June 20, 2012 By Sarah Rich
Surviving as a government employee can be challenging if you are significantly younger than your colleagues. And statistics point to the fact that younger workers employed in the public sector often are outnumbered.
So younger workers may not feel they have a big voice when it comes time to ask for permission to use iPhones at work or to make a suggestion about a hot new technology that could benefit the entire organization.
GovLoop, the social network for government professionals, is trying to change that. The network will be hosting a Next Generation of Government Training Summit on July 26 and 27 in Washington, D.C.
The two-day event is intended to help more than 500 Generation X and Y leaders navigate the bureaucracy of government and learn new and innovative ways to integrate technology into their jobs.
“There’s not a ton of young leaders in government, such as state and local,” said GovLoop Founder and President Steve Ressler. “A lot of folks, when they come in, kind of get stuck in bureaucracy.”
Age might be a factor. According to North Carolina Government Workforce Statistics, the average age of the state’s 88,000-plus employees is 45.8 years old.
Federal workers are older. According to Where the Jobs Are, a survey conducted by the Partnership for Public Service, the average age among the federal enterprise’s more than 1.6 million full-time, permanent civilian employees is 47 years old. A whopping 74 percent are more than 40 years old.
Ressler said younger workers typically use technology to solve problems even if they don’t work under a CIO or in an IT enterprise. Ressler suggested three tips to younger public employees for bringing more technology into their day-to-day work.
1. Show That It Works
One of the challenges for young government employees who try to introduce alternative technologies is that higher-ups might not like the idea because they haven’t seen the technology in action, Ressler said.
“So if you say, ‘Hey boss, we should do this on a wiki,’ or ‘We should use Dropbox to do this’ or ‘We should do this in Prezi,’ people are going to ignore you. There’s something to seeing is believing,” Ressler said.
Ressler suggests showing how a particular technology works and performing a demonstration so your boss can see that it works.
2. Prove That It’s Comfortable
Ressler said it’s commonplace for individuals to be against technology in theory rather than in practice. To sway the naysayers, he suggests showing that technology can be comfortable to use.
For example, some may say that the free video chat service Skype would be uncomfortable to use at work since it involves seeing people’s faces on a call.
3. Show Who Else Is Using It
Many departments and agencies don’t want to be early adopters of a new technology because of uncertainty that it will improve work tasks. So for higher-ups who are fearful of the unknown, Ressler recommends showing who else in government is using the technology.
Ressler suggests presenting case studies and other information explaining that a given technology has become a proven solution for another government entity.
“In government, often no one wants to be first — or rarely do people want to be first,” Ressler said. “But if you’re young and you have a new idea that, ‘Hey, our city should do X or Y,’ and you don’t back it up with, ‘Here’s three other cities that are doing it, and here’s three ways after doing it they saved money,’ no one’s going to do it.”
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