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More than one-third of U.S. government employees say agencies aren’t investing in fostering employee connection

Millennial government employees place higher value on connection to organizational culture than Gen Xers and Boomers

Arlington, Va., April 25, 2023 – More than one-third (37 percent) of government employers say their agencies aren’t investing in employee connection, according to a new Eagle Hill Consulting national survey. These findings come as government employers across the nation continue to struggle with recruiting and retaining employees to deliver essential public services.

In terms of what matters most in their day-to-day work experience, 49 percent of government employees say it’s feeling connected to their work and a sense of purpose. Government employees say feeling connected to their work improves their ability to do their job (57 percent), day-to-day work quality (55 percent), desire to go above and beyond (53 percent), and ability to serve agency customers (46 percent).

The survey also found significant generational differences, which are important to understand given the shifting demographics of the government workforce. When it comes to their day-to-day experience, feeling connected to the agency’s organizational culture is substantially more important to Millennials (25 percent) as compared to Gen Xers (14 percent) and Baby Boomers (seven percent).

“Often, government agencies take a narrow view of employee connection, defining it only in terms of employee relationships,” said Melissa Jezior, president and chief executive officer of Eagle Hill Consulting. “But employee connection is so much more, and government leaders are wise to take a bigger picture view. Employee connection is about fostering a workplace where government workers feel connection not just to their colleagues, but also to their work, organization, and culture.”

“The landscape has never been more complicated for government employers. The demand for public services is rising, but it’s increasingly difficult to find and keep qualified workers. Also, governments are facing a tsunami of Baby Boomer retirements but are challenged in terms of drawing younger workers to public service careers. Given a multitude of challenges, forward-looking agencies will focus on fostering connections to improve employee retention, increase job satisfaction, and boost agency performance. Government leaders are wise to dig in and understand Gen X and Millennial worker sentiment on connection given they are the fastest growing segments of the public workforce. And connection strategies should be grounded in what government employees say gives them a real sense of connection,” Jezior said.

Employee connection is defined as a sense of belonging in the workplace grounded in three aspects of the experience:

  1. Connection to work: having a sense of satisfaction and purpose day-to-day.
  2. Connection to people: developing relationships with peers, teams, managers, and leaders.
  3. Connection to organization: feeling that personal values align with the culture, mission, values, and norms.

Additional survey findings are as follows: 

  • When it comes to deciding whether to stay with or leave their agency, 47 percent of workers say connection to their work impacts their decision to stay or leave their job. For Millennials and Gen Xers, feeling connected to people and the organizational culture is just as impactful, if not more so, than feeling connected to work when deciding to stay or leave. 
  • Most Baby Boomers (62 percent) in government say that sense of purpose is the most important driver of their overall work experience, but just 41 percent of Millennials say the same.
  • Compared to Baby Boomers (18 percent), Millennials (44 percent) and Gen X (41 percent) government employees are more than twice as likely to report that feeling connected to the organizational culture impacts their ability to do their job.
  • Millennials (35 percent) and Gen Xers (29 percent) in government are more than twice as likely to cite connection to organizational culture as a driver of customer service than Baby Boomers (14 percent).
  • When asked what has the most impact of creating a sense of connection, government workers said it’s team meetings (44 percent), common goals (42 percent), hearing from leadership (36 percent), and social events (35 percent).

The findings are based upon the 2023 Eagle Hill Employee Connection Survey. The survey was conducted online by Ipsos on January 3-5, 2023, and included 547 adult respondents from a random sample of local, state, and federal government employees across the U.S. The survey polled respondents to understand sentiment about employee connection, as well views on actions employers can take to create more employee connection in the workplace.

Eagle Hill Consulting LLC is a woman-owned business that provides unconventional management consulting services in the areas of Strategy & Performance, Talent, and Change. The company’s expertise in delivering innovative solutions to unique challenges spans across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. A leading authority on employee sentiment, Eagle Hill is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, with employees across the U.S. and offices in Boston and Seattle. More information is available at www.eaglehillconsulting.com.

Media Contact: Susan Nealon | 703.229.8600 | snealon@eaglehillconsulting.com | @WeAreEagleHill