Tips for Recruiting the Next Generation of Government Parks and Rec Employees

You may not have heard of the Silver Tsunami, but it's coming. This ominous term describes the population of aging baby boomers about to retire en masse, depleting offices across the nation of valuable staff who will be taking with them decades of institutional knowledge. The Silver Tsunami has particularly devastating consequences for local government, as according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age of government employees is 45.3, compared to the median age of the nation's workforce as a whole, which is 42.3. That means for local government, the tsunami is going to hit faster, and harder. To survive this staffing challenge, local governments—including parks and rec departments—need to focus on hiring the next generation of employees: millennials.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as many as one out of 10 workers will retire either this year or next. Experts project that by 2018, 28 percent of public sector workers will have reached age 61. Many near-retirement-age workers in both the private and public sectors delayed their retirement in the wake of the 2008 financial recession. With a more stable economy, many individuals feel that they are financially prepared to begin the next phase of their lives.

On one hand, this means senior employees with greater benefit and overhead costs will be departing, freeing up budget and flexibility for new hires. On the other hand, parks and rec departments will be losing many valuable employees and the institutional knowledge they have accumulated. According to the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute survey, when asked about the consequences of retiring baby boomers, 80 percent of public and private sector employers said their organizations expect to lose experience, institutional knowledge and leadership. They also anticipate issues associated with being understaffed, which could affect remaining employees who feel overworked or undertrained.

A Proactive Approach

As older employees begin to retire from parks and rec departments, younger generation X and millennial employees will need to replace them. Many local governments and their parks and rec departments have already begun recruiting and hiring millennials over the past decade, but increasingly hiring managers are finding that millennials are becoming a significant segment of the active and passive job seekers in their communities, as they have officially become America's largest generation.

With the goal of creating a workforce that will benefit from the type of collaboration only possible from a team composed of members with diverse experiences and perspectives, many local governments are now attempting to recruit millennial workers to join their parks and rec staffs. Also, they aim to capitalize on the enthusiasm and youth of millennials to help re-engage their parks and rec strategies.

How to Recruit Millennials

If you aim to recruit millennials, it is essential to understand that they are a generation of consumers. According to the Harvard Business Review study, millennials shop around for the jobs that best align with their needs and life goals. For local government, to recruit millennials, it will be critical to appeal to them on a personal level and reinforce the benefits that they will receive from working for your community, such as a sense of pride and the ability to have a positive impact on the lives of others.

To accomplish this, make sure to build an online persona for your parks and rec department that reinforces what makes your community unique. When researching career opportunities, millennials will start online, which means they're likely to first check out your parks and rec department website and social media profiles such as Facebook and Instagram. Share photos of staff attending events in the community, and post videos of park projects your teams have implemented.

Leveraging such tools as part of your recruitment strategy will help to target these tech-minded job researchers and help them to see the personal value in a career with your department.

Compared to earlier generations, millennials are less likely to find your parks and rec job ad in a newspaper. In fact, only 16 percent of millennials report paying for a newspaper subscription. Millennials are more likely to start their job hunt with a search engine, which means placing your job recruitment ads on your municipal website is a must.

Note that recent college graduates are among those millennials most likely to turn to your local government website for career opportunities. In a survey of the class of 2014 by ConnectEDU and Achievers, 60 percent of graduates planned to search on a company's website for work.

To enhance the job search experience for millennials, make sure you optimize your parks and rec department website for mobile. Millennials tether themselves to their mobile devices. According to comScore Media Matrix, 21 percent of millennials almost exclusively use a mobile device to go online, and according to a study conducted by JobVite, 37 percent of millennial job seekers specifically expect career websites to be optimized for mobile, allowing them to search for jobs anytime, and any place.

Millennials are also more likely than earlier generations to find job opportunities using social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. In fact, an Aberdeen study reports that 73 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds found their last job through a social network. In between posts that highlight the beauty of your park trails system and that advertise upcoming community education classes, add in a post to promote your open job positions.

Millennials are also likely to use online job boards such as Indeed, Monster or Career Builder to start their job search, which means placing your job ads on such sites is also crucial.

Get Ready!

Don't fear the Silver Tsunami. Think of it as an opportunity for dedicated employees to turn the page on a new phase of their lives, and an opportunity for your community to partner with new, young talent to engage citizens in fresh, meaningful ways. By expertly targeting millennials with your recruitment efforts and demonstrating to them just how valuable a position in your parks and rec department can be, you can mitigate the effects of the Silver Tsunami and ride the wave toward even greater success.



As the product marketing manager for CivicRec, part of the CivicPlus integrated technology platform for local government, Jennifer Elliott's focus is to understand local government and the park and recreation department's needs and processes. She ensures the benefits and efficiencies of CivicRec and its implementation are communicated and being leveraged by CivicPlus clients. CivicPlus' mission is to make government work better, and Jennifer strives to implement that ideal into useful content that can be used by parks and recreation directors and their staff.


Jennifer Elliott