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Is that Gen Alpha sliding into your DMs?

Written by: Michelle O’Neill, is principal consultant – leadership and OD, at West Midlands Employers
Published on: 27 Jun 2024

Let your mind wander…you are in the year 2040. Have you got an image in your head yet? Here’s one for you.

The ‘rigid bureaucracy’ badge you used to wear as a public servant is now ancient history. Local government is an agile network of problem-untanglers and vision-weavers. Gone are the days of sluggish hierarchy and divided departments. Instead, a startup-like mindset has taken hold, with flexible teams formed around citizen needs. Innovative services are frequently updated and retired through rapid cycles of improvement.

On the front lines, an empowered workforce is cutting through red tape, aided by AI decision support and automated trusted processes. Meanwhile, an overarching vision has been co-created via open digital channels where citizens contribute ideas. Local leaders are valued as big-picture thinkers who’ve mastered the art of thriving through constant change.

Sound good to you? That vision gifts you with the next 20 years to ready up your current and future workforce to embrace a seismic cultural shift.

You have a runway to help others re-skill, unlearn, and re-imagine what it means to serve the public. Now is your time to build the capabilities and mindsets needed to thrive amid what will be unremitting disruption. And the demographics of your workforce and your customers will be simultaneously changing at pace so your preparation will have to respond to diversity and difference.

Where’s the best place to start? Future attraction. All those school children sitting in their classrooms with open, curious minds and a whole new view of the world. You’ve got to be ready to entice them. But recruitment has been playing the same tune for decades. Here’s the hard truth: those tactics might have worked luring in millennials or Gen X. But Generation Alpha? They’re a whole different breed, born into smart tech, cloud chasing, and viral trends.

By 2030, the first wave of Alphas will be hitting the job market. And if you think they’re going to be wowed by your dusty recruitment process, you need to think again. These kids have been rocking technology since primary school.

To get these digitally-obsessed young’uns hyped about the meaningful work of public service, you’ve got to meet them where they’re at.

This means leveraging TikTok and Instagram influencers as ambassadors, showcasing cool jobs and letting them share their real, unvarnished truth.

Imagine interactive, gamified digital recruitment campaigns –immersive apps that let Gen Alpha ‘live a day’ in different public service roles through VR, storytelling, and choose-your-own-adventure formats.

Don’t forget highlighting impactful work tied to causes they care about like climate change and social justice. Use emotional human stories, partnered with respected activists and creating virtual volunteering experiences.

Put your current engaged Gen Z employees front and centre – vlogs and live streams giving the real scoop. Make them the face of campaigns and peer mentors redesigning processes like onboarding. While you’re at it, radically rethink the whole hiring process: what about skills challenges instead of CVs, live TikTok interviewing, AI bots for screening, self-directed job previews, and personalised onboarding?

Ultimately, you’re showing that you deeply get Gen Alpha’s mindset, role models, and cultural touchpoints and want the whole process to feel as innovative as the solutions you need them creating.

But attraction is just step one. Then comes the fun of keeping them engaged. You certainly don’t want their experience to be that of culture catfishing, resulting in an employee ‘swiping left!’

This generation will want a workplace experience dripping with innovation and immersive digital integration – virtual meeting places, Snapchat intro filters, AI-powered coaching. You could even throw out those clunky old job descriptions in favour of multimedia roles they can co-create.

This generation won’t be mere ‘employees’ kept in their lanes – they’ll be celebrated as ‘co-creators’ moulding dynamic roles and squiggly careers in partnership with their employers. Alphas will have been raised with an abundance of autonomy and information at their fingertips. They’ll expect an unprecedented level of transparency, vulnerability, and a true equity of voice from their leaders.

The true prize, though, is bridging their digital nativity with the seasoned experience of your aging workforce through mentorship swaps, cross-generational initiatives, and hierarchy-fluid teams led by expertise, not tenure. It won’t be easy but imagine those multigenerational teams where innovation meets discipline, and every generation’s value is woven into the cultural fabric.

Go back to that vision of 2040 and start questioning everything about how you hire, inspire and lead. This is exactly the kind of conversation West Midlands Employers is having with councils and our partners in local government. 

Michelle O’Neill, is principal consultant – leadership and OD, at West Midlands Employers