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Where Is the Federal Workforce Headed?

Luiza Libardi (Creative Commons)

As the federal government looks to recruit, develop, and modernize its workforce, new trends are emerging. During a recent panel at Nextgov Prime 2014, a group of workforce development experts sat down together to discuss how agencies are already taking advantage of new management and recruiting techniques to improve the effectiveness of their employees.

According to moderator Gwynne Kostin and panelists Reginald Wells, Jody Thompson, Mika Cross, and Luke Beckman, a number of changes have already begun occurring in federal telework:

Agencies are employing technologies to help tie recruitment with retention

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management and other agencies have been aggressively pursuing technology solutions that can better link long-term workforce planning with the recruiting of individuals to fit specific jobs. Cross, a Senior HR Solutions Consultant at OPM, detailed how her agency currently uses custom assessments to determine what skills government needs most, even from entry-level employees, that can carry through the course of an employee’s career. Moreover, these tools can help identify and aggregate training needs within and across federal agencies. Together, can ensure that employees have room to grow even as they progress in their career.

Agencies have become more tactical with how they groom future leaders

According to Wells, who serves as Deputy Commissioner of Human Resources at the Social Security Administration, the SSA historically only promoted their top leadership from employees on the inside, a model rooted in decades of tradition that is not uncommon across federal agencies. However, agencies have begun to realize that, just as private companies have seen in recruiting top talent, the federal government must be more flexible and open to hiring people who have a variety of experiences even outside the public sector.

“We cannot expect to groom all of our top leadership anymore, especially when it comes to IT talent,” said Wells. To address these needs, SSA currently has a two-year fellowship program, where fellows are paired with mentors serving in executive level leadership in the agency. At the end of the program, a majority of the fellows stay on within the organization.

Employees expect greater flexibility from their workplace

A recent Government Business Council survey of federal leaders revealed that, if given the option, 67% of teleworkers would choose to telework more frequently than they currently do. According to the panelists, agencies have responded accordingly.

“‘The new flexibility’ in the government workforce is sitting on a platform balancing between accountability and autonomy,” Thompson asserted. Rather than managing people or location, managers will care more about measuring results, a model which she cited has seen benefits in local government agencies in the state of Minnesota.

Cross concurred, adding that the increasing diversity of the federal workforce makes workplace flexibility even more imperative. “You’re looking at a workforce embracing 5 generations of workers, parents, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and more. Agencies need to overcome barriers to federal government service. Being aggressive in providing workforce flexibilities can help mission efficacy overall.”

To read more about GBC’s previous research on the federal workforce and telework issues, please see:

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