Bring generations together by leveraging millennial affinity groups.

Author:Miah, Kiyona
Position:COMMENTARY - Column

There was a major push to form a?nity groups at the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010. A?nity groups provide forums for employees to gather socially and share ideas outside of their particular business units.

Managers thought that young employees, known as Millennials because they were born near the end of the 20th century, needed their own affinity group for support in the workplace. With encouragement from her supervisor, Lorena Molina-Irizarry of the Human Resources Division attended a Next-Gen Summit and connected with leaders from the Environmental Protection Agency's Emerging Leaders Network (ELN). Using ELN's charter as a model, Molina-Irizarry and others created the NextGen Network @ Census.

The newly formed group received support from senior leadership--including Robert Groves, the Census Bureau's director at the time. The group held quarterly meetings to provide updates on goals and to share accomplishments. The group also had the support and backing of the Diversity and Inclusion Office at the Census Bureau.

Encouraging Millennial Group--Senior Management Collaboration

Affinity groups can present opportunities and benefits not only for members but also for senior leadership. One of the NextGen network's major platforms at its inception was recruitment and retention of employees. Members have helped recruit recent college graduates by assisting human resource professionals at career fairs. It can be reassuring for college students to see someone who recently graduated and can offer perspectives of a career in federal service.

NextGen's major vehicle to help retain Millennials is its buddy program. The program pairs new Millennials and interns with NextGen members in an informal mentoring relationship. The program affords new employees the opportunity to gain a connection and resources early in their career to acclimate them to agency culture as well as to government processes. In an agency with thousands of employees, having a peer who can answer questions aids in a sense of belonging and retention.

The NextGen Network recently hosted a "speed networking" event where it gave members a chance to interact and ask questions to Generation X employees (generally people born in the 1960s and 1970s) who have achieved success at the agency. This event was particularly successful because it gave Millennials a glimpse of success they could achieve at the Census Bureau in the next five to 10 years.

In 2013, NextGen Network @ Census revamped its...

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