Professional Development Blog
The Next Generation of Feds

The Next Generation of Feds

June 8, 2012 | By Brittany Ballenstedt
Published on NextGov

With the recent rise in federal retirements — up 24 percent in just the first 10 months of 2011 — you can bet agencies are focusing on grooming the next generation of federal leaders. And if they aren’t, they should be.

Equipping young feds with the skills and savvy to pick up where more seasoned workers have left off is the focus of the third annual Next Generation of Government Summit, taking place July 26 and 27 in Washington.

Steve Ressler, founder and president of GovLoop, said Thursday that as agencies look to build emerging federal leaders through the new Pathways programs — which require a minimum of 80 hours of formal interactive training per fellow per year — they might consider looking to the Next Generation of Government Summit as a means for achieving that goal, or to simply build up the new leaders that are moving up to replace retiring workers. Regulations establishing the Pathways programs are slated to go into effect on July 10.

Conference leaders reached out to the Office of Personnel Management and federal managers to determine the key skills that most young feds need, Ressler said. “We heard some interesting ones,” he said. “A lot of it was around social skills and workplace savviness, as well as the soft skills and how you navigate internally and build rapport with folks. And then there were the core work functions, like public speaking, presenting ideas, writing and critical thinking.”

As in past Next Gen conferences, technology topics also will play a large role, Ressler said.

Abhi Nemani, director of strategy at Code for America, will offer a session on 50 technology tips that can make feds more effective at work. Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, also will offer a lunchside chat on new technology. Attendees also can learn how to collaborate across sectors, leverage social media skills and work across generational lines.

“Technology is no longer just in the CIO shop; technology is being embedded in everything we do,” he said. “You have to know how to use those tools to be good at your job, whether you’re in HR or budget. It’s part of what you do.”

Another aspect the conference is hitting on is the importance of public service, particularly as recent news stories and budget-cutting measures mean feds are often “getting beat up,” Ressler said. Two-time Olympic medal winner, Adam Nelson, will be talking to attendees about the concept of perseverance, he said.

GovLoop is currently allowing its participants to vote on any of 12 “lightning speakers” to deliver five-minute presentations during the closing session of the conference. Topics proposed by the 12 finalists range from how to become a government ninja to learning to love the bureaucracy to being a blind professional in the federal workplace.

Finally, while it seems talk about the retirement tsunami and grooming the next generation of leaders often gets old, Ressler said, these are important topics that agencies are going to need to consider as the economy recovers, federal retirements continue to increase and competition for skilled talent picks back up.

“The retirements are up, but even more than that, agencies have fewer slots to hire,” Ressler said. “If you have three GS-14s retire and you’re hiring only one GS-9, I’d really want to make sure I have the best, most awesome GS-9 in the world. Agencies are going to need distinct pathways and training and mentorship opportunities in order to get that amazing person.”