Gen Z has fewer Black federal employees than other generational groups
In 2021, Generation Z had fewer Black federal employees than the average for all age groups, and those employees saw higher rates of attrition than their Gen Z counterparts of other races. Considering that Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation the U.S. has ever seen, this trend is concerning.
Understanding federal workforce trends through the lens of generational groups can be helpful both for recruitment and to evaluate where and why important talent is leaving so that leaders can create solutions to prevent the turnover.
Research has shown that diverse workplaces with a range of workstyles and professional strengths create higher levels of productivity. Additionally, the federal government has a duty to represent all of the people in this country.
Those in Gen Z were born between 1997 and 2012, making them less than 25 years old in 2021. In 2021, there were 30,973 full-time nonseasonal permanent Gen Z civil servants, making up just 1.6% of the total federal workforce.
Gen Z federal workforce is less racially and ethnically diverse than the general workforce
Gen Z had more Hispanic civil servants than the federal average by 1.5 percentage points in 2021. Gen Z also had double the percentage of employees who identified as more than one race (4.0%) and about the same percentage of Asian, Native American, Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiian employees as employees of all age groups.
Yet Gen Z trailed the federal government in terms of people of color by 2.7 percentage points. This is because Black employees made up only 12.5% of the Gen Z federal workforce, 6.1 percentage points behind the federal average. Meanwhile, Black individuals in 2019 made up 14% of the national Gen Z population.
Black Gen Z employees also have experienced the highest attrition rate of any ethnicity or race at 17.8%, followed closely by American Indians and Alaskan Natives at 17.1%. The average turnover rate for Gen Z was 12.6%, which was close to the turnover rate of Hispanic Gen Z employees and higher than the rate for white and Asian employees. In addition to a high attrition rate, the federal government has a problem recruiting Black employees. Gen Z has a lower percentage of Black employees than Millennials, Gen X or Baby Boomers.
Why is this happening?
Some data shows that Black Gen Zers have lower levels of trust in the federal government than Gen Zers of other races. They also are less likely to feel as though they have the same rights as others, which may decrease the likelihood of them wanting to work for the federal government. Most Black Gen Zers do not think the government wants to hire them, even more so than Gen Zers of other races and ethnicities. This could lead to recruitment barriers.
Once in government, federal employees of color may face barriers that their white colleagues do not. According to the Government Accountability Office, employees of color in some federal agencies are promoted at lower rates than their white coworkers, which may contribute to turnover. Gen Z, more so than others, expects promotions early on in their careers.
Paths to improvement
Agencies should recruit at Historically Black colleges and universities, emphasize how federal work can help local communities and leverage the use of internships and fellowships to introduce government work to people of color early.
Based on the Partnership’s research, federal leaders should tailor retention strategies to their Gen Z employees of color. They should consider setting up mentoring programs to help Black employees connect with the mission and place an emphasis of matching up people with similar backgrounds. HR teams can work with supervisors to socialize and personalize career maps that allow for employees of color to imagine a long-term path for themselves at an agency. HR can work with evaluation offices to ensure that promotions are offered equitably.
Most importantly, agencies should set up data collection measures and hear directly from employees about what kinds of factors would make them stay with or leave an organization. Leaders should empower the HR and evaluation offices to set up focus groups, surveys and interviews with Black civil servants. Leaders must communicate their commitment, listen and take action.
To find out more about tailoring retention strategies to generations, keep your eye out for an upcoming November 2022 Partnership and ServiceNow report about retaining Gen X and Gen Z federal employees. For more information, please reach out to Paul Pietsch at [email protected].
Mikayla Hyman is a former member of the Partnership’s Research, Evaluation and Modernizing Government team.