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Objectives & Methodology


The primary purpose of this report is to explore the differences and similarities across public sector employees from the millennial/Generation Y (born 1981-1997), Generation X (born 1965-1980) and baby boomer (born 1946-1964) generations when it comes to recruitment, retention, employment preferences, career advancement and attitudes about work in general. The examination of these areas is intended to offer public sector human resources professionals guidance on recruiting and retaining employees from the three generations.

The objectives for this most-recent public sector workforce benchmarking survey, as established by IPMA-HR’s 2016 Benchmarking Committee, are as follows:

  • Appeal of Working for the Government: Ascertain from public sector employees from each of the three generations surveyed (e.g., Generation Y, Generation X and baby boomers) their baseline opinions of government as an employer and institution and the factors that motivated each generation to pursue work with their organization. And, in general, determine features of organizations that are attractive for them to pursue employment.
  • Recruitment: Delve into how government employees found their jobs, their perception of the government hiring process, qualities of organizations and benefits offered by government organizations that are attractive to each of the generations.
  • Retention: Evaluate workplace preferences, benefits of specific interest, preferred work resources and infrastructure, preferred organizational philosophy, interpersonal relationships and reasons government employees give for wanting to leave or stay at their current organizations.
  • Attitudes About Work in General: Investigate government employees’ general attitudes about work— specifically, thoughts upon taking a new position, work hours and purpose for working.
  • Career Advancement: Explore the different viewpoints on career advancement across the generations

IPMA-HR sent emails to association members in April 2016 inviting them to enlist their organizations’ employees in this benchmarking survey project. The email identified the survey as an online cross-generational survey designed to capture respondents’ attitudes about work, career advancement and factors of employment that would encourage recruitment and retention across the millennial, Generation X and baby boomer generations.

The survey was sent to 7,499 employees at 10 organizations on June 6, 2016. The sample was drawn from a larger population in a somewhat stratified manner to ensure an equal number of millennial, Gen X and baby boomer employees were included. Some organizations were overrepresented by a particular generational cohort. In the end, the survey was completed by 3,584 respondents, resulting in a 48% response rate.


As an incentive for participation, the 10 government organizations whose employees returned completed surveys were sent the detailed datasets for their own organization’s workforce and a summary of results from all the participating organizations.

Questions and correspondence were developed with input from the association’s Benchmarking Committee. A copy of the survey instrument is available upon request by contacting

Background: Demographics