How to Attract Millennials and Gen Z Employees to Your Parks and Recreation Department

Written by Whitney Greene

Best practices for recruiting the next generation of park and recreation leaders.
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Parks and recreation departments are facing a hiring challenge. In September 2017, the United States Office of Personnel Management reported that the most significant percentage of government workers were between the ages of 45 and 59—Generation X and baby boomers. Many of those employees have gone on to retire or plan to soon. As a result, government departments, including parks and recreation, must recruit younger generations to open roles while maintaining current, more tenured staff. Today, we’ll focus on how to make your parks and recreation positions more attractive to the next generation of government leaders, millennials (born 1981-1996), and Generation Z (Gen Z), which includes job applicants born between 1997 and 2012.

Acknowledgment of Digital Work Potential

Millennial and Gen Z members are digital natives. They have grown up with access to modern technology, including lightning-fast internet speeds, social media, and personal mobile devices. Especially those of Gen Z who attended and graduated college during the height of COVID-19; they went to school entirely online and afterward secured remote job positions. When they accept a job, they expect and desire digital tools that empower them to connect with teams, track work, and accomplish their goals. This expectation means parks and recreation departments with primarily paper-based workflows or outdated tech are at risk of not being appealing to job applicants.

How do park and recreation departments appeal to millennials and Gen Z more authentically? Fully embrace digitalization and automation of your workflows and processes. These generations appreciate governments that embrace the future and do their best to transfer their paper trails and workflows to software and online portals. In addition, the more remote and digital job opportunities park and recreation departments can offer, the higher the allure for this collaborative, bright group of workers.

Health Insurance and Career Opportunities

Park and recreation departments continually feel the pressure of limited budgets, but prioritizing adequate compensation and benefits will make any job position more enticing and enable you to hire valuable talent with the most career potential.

Many millennials and Gen Zers are pushing for increased work-life balance. They want their employers to empathize with and prioritize employees’ wellness needs. Mental health days and therapy session reimbursements may be newer investments. Still, the retention rates of younger staff will rise when your employees feel supported—and that’s true for every generation.

Job hopping is another obstacle when attracting and retaining millennial and Gen Z employees. On average, millennials stay at companies for 2.8 years, according to the Bureau of Labor. According to data collected by LinkedIn, Gen Z members are changing jobs 156% more today than they did pre-pandemic in 2019. There are many reasons for this trend, including new job opportunities that can offer exciting challenges and (almost always) higher pay.

Parks and recreation departments can address these desires by offering access to higher education programs, soft skill learning events, and internal promotions to support their employees’ career goals and keep them working on their teams. Opportunities for internal advancement will also appeal to longer-serving staff members. Rewarding good work and encouraging growth help create a healthy work culture where employees can thrive. Sitting with the budget and seeing where salaries can be raised will ultimately be one of the most effective moves a parks and recreation department can make.

The Future is Here

Hiring and retaining millennial and Gen Z members is a worthwhile long-term initiative for any parks and recreation department. Still, it will take specific planning and changing more established ideas around work culture. Younger workers will flock to your government positions if you can increase digitalization, offer competitive pay, and provide access to comprehensive health care. These generations are full of bright thinkers and ambitious employees. They could be the agents of positive change you’ve needed to reinvigorate your community and bring innovative programs and initiatives to your area.