Federal Government Lagging on Millennial Recruitment,

Leadership Development as Senior Leadership Retires

New research from Cornerstone OnDemand reveals lack of investment in developing next generation of leaders among federal agencies

SANTA MONICA, Calif., March 12, 2015 – With an aging workforce and shrinking budgets, federal and defense organizations face several unique challenges in building their next generation of leaders. At the top of the list of challenges is failed talent management initiatives, revealed by a new survey from talent management software firm Cornerstone OnDemand (NASDAQ: CSOD), conducted in collaboration with WBR Digital for the second year in a row.

Cornerstone and WBR Digital’s benchmark survey, Building a Culture of Excellence and Engagement: The 2015 Human Capital Management Report, found that 78 percent of federal agency human capital executives feel their current talent management programs fall short of where they need to be, slightly up from the 2014 report. Additionally, eight in ten respondents cite the culture of their agencies as the biggest barrier, other than budget, to creating positive change and reaching their talent management and performance goals. Challenged by stagnant management practices and resource gaps within departments, the federal government also faces its lowest employee engagement rankings in 11 years.1

According to the Government Accountability Office, nearly two-thirds of senior executives will reach retirement eligibility by 2016. Cornerstone and WBR’s report found that the top concern among federal agency human capital executives is finding qualified job candidates, with 68 percent currently working on such initiatives—a 23 percent jump from the 2014 study. Surprisingly, nearly eight in ten federal agencies have no active plan in place to recruit millennials, the generation projected to comprise 75-80 percent of the workforce in the next decade. The lack of investment among federal agencies to recruit the next generation of leaders threatens the continuity of talent development and knowledge retention as high-level officers age out of key positions.

Other key survey findings include:

  • 2015 talent management priorities. After finding the right people for the job, respondents name succession planning and identifying and closing skill gaps as their top priorities – all three of which are tightly linked to staff development, which 63 percent of respondents name as an active area of focus. 

  • Developing leaders. While the majority of agencies cite that succession planning is a priority, only 29 percent are focused on leadership development training, signaling that employees are not being properly groomed to fill key leadership positions.

  • Changing the culture. In order to change the management culture for organizational improvements, there must be transparent dialogue and feedback. However, half of all respondents ranked their continuous feedback process as below where it should be, with 15 percent calling their efforts flatly unsuccessful.

  • Building morale and engagement. To turn back the negative engagement ratings and historically rigid management culture, agencies are increasingly adapting to workers’ needs and desires. Seventy-three percent of respondents are implementing teleworking and work-time flexibility programs, nearly two-thirds are employing non-monetary recognition initiatives, and 58 percent are implementing mentorship programs to ensure knowledge retention and bridge the gap between generations in the workplace.

While the report reveals a positive shift within federal agencies to adapt to the way today’s employees desire to get work done, the lack of investment in recruiting millennials and leadership development initiatives signifies that many federal agencies are not adequately preparing to attract and retain the next generation of talent. Today’s federal agency leaders have an opportunity to re-energize their workplace and improve employee engagement, and yet without a focus on supporting employees to be successful as they step into key roles, they run the risk of contributing further to talent gaps and losing out on the strongest candidates to the private sector.

Comments on the News

  • “This year’s benchmark survey results further confirm the urgent need for agencies to proactively engage millennials and develop existing staff to mitigate the consequences of turnover, build morale and prepare for future agency needs,” said Miranda Ashby, senior director of federal government, Cornerstone OnDemand. “Changing a workplace culture does not happen overnight, but by unifying talent programs and initiatives, federal leaders can become more effective and efficient in their journey to create transparency and dialogue that employees want today and will expect in the future.”
  • “Today’s candidates and employees are eager to bring meaning to their careers and want to feel supported to succeed,” said Greg Ashton, director, Human Capital Management for Government Conference. “By engaging staff with leadership development opportunities and creating a workplace that appeals to the next generation of talent, agencies will not only build employee excitement for a career in federal government, they will also be better positioned to close skill and talent gaps left by high-level officers as they become eligible for retirement.”
  • “Employees of the federal government instinctively have a desire to do a good job and go the extra mile,” said John Palguta, vice president, The Partnership for Public Service. “If we don’t provide them with the right work environment, tools, resources and leadership they need to do their jobs well, we are not maximizing their potential and risk the future success of our agencies.”

Additional Resources

  • Infographic. Check out the infographic highlighting the report results at csod.info/1F8VMey.
  • Survey results report. To view the full results of The 2015 Human Capital Management Report, go to csod.info/1D22Iuw.
  • Webinar. Hear what government HR professionals have to say about the report’s findings during a webinar on March 19. Sign up at csod.info/1aLOguG.

About the Survey

Cornerstone OnDemand teamed with WBR Digital to create the benchmarking questionnaire, which was answered onsite at HCMG in 2014. Over 140 federal government human capital professionals answered questions about strategic human capital planning, workforce management strategies, talent management and best-in-class strategies for building a results-oriented culture. Their roles included titles such as Chief Human Capital Officer, Senior Vice President, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, President and CEO. They represented agencies or organizations as diverse as the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

About Human Capital Management for Government (HCMG)

The Human Capital Management for Government Training Series brings together key stakeholders from throughout the federal and defense HR communities to discuss best practices for managing human capital, improving efficiency, and advancing innovation. Launched in 2006, the series of events has evolved into the meeting place for strategic-level policy makers and operational- level HR managers and often serves as the catalyst for new initiatives.

About Worldwide Business Research and WBR Digital

Worldwide Business Research is the world's most dynamic large-scale conference company and part of the PLS group, one of the world's leading providers of strategic business intelligence with 16 offices worldwide. Every year over 10,000 senior executives from Fortune 1000 companies attend over 100 annual conferences – a true "Who's Who" of today's corporate world. With a deep commitment to building lasting relationships and delivering quality content and networking, WBR inspires your career.

In addition to our industry leading conferences, our professional services marketing division, WBR Digital, connects solution providers to their target audiences with year-round online branding, engagement, and lead generation campaigns. We are a team of content specialists, marketers, and advisors with a passion for powerful marketing. We believe in demand generation with a creative twist. We believe in the power of content to engage audiences. And we believe in campaigns that deliver results.

About Cornerstone OnDemand
Cornerstone OnDemand is a leader in cloud-based applications for talent management. The company’s solutions help organizations recruit, train, manage and engage their employees, empowering their people and increasing workforce productivity. Based in Santa Monica, California, the company’s solutions are used by over 2,100 clients worldwide, spanning more than 18.1 million users across 191 countries and 42 languages. To learn more about Cornerstone, visit csod.com, twitter.com/CornerstoneInc and facebook.com/CSODcommunity


Cornerstone® and Cornerstone OnDemand® are registered trademarks of Cornerstone OnDemand Inc.

  1. Partnership for Public Service, “The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” December 2014

Media Contacts:

Sarah Platte
Cornerstone OnDemand
Phone: +1 (310) 752-1799

Andrew Greissman
WBR Digital
Phone: +1 (646) 200-7950