Hiring reform may not be enough to boost federal workforce

A faster and more streamlined hiring process isn't enough to build a strong federal workforce, human capital experts said Monday.

During a session at Government Executive's Excellence in Government conference, panelists said that the quality of new federal hires still is lagging even as agencies fill jobs more quickly. To create a high-performing workforce, agencies must look beyond simple process improvements to issues of attrition, onboarding and strategic planning, they said.

The key challenge agencies are facing today is "strategically shaping your workforce, not just hiring," said Jon Desenberg, policy director at the Performance Institute. "Today it's a much different reality, which is how are we going to shape the workforce as it possibly gets smaller, and the worst possible outcome is to let Congress go ahead with these salami slice, across-the-board freezes and this voluntary attrition. When you offer people buyouts, who leaves? The people who can get great jobs other places."

When asked whether their agencies have made progress on hiring reform, some attendees reported they have decreased time to hire. But most said applicant quality has declined. Panelists noted that attrition, particularly for young hires, is "abysmal," adding that agencies must ensure that the work environment is conducive to good performance. Onboarding, training and workforce planning are extensions of the hiring process, they said.

According to panelists, federal agencies can improve candidate quality, as well as retention and performance, by using and enhancing the processes already in place. Government doesn't need to overhaul job classifications or hiring flexibilities but rather educate managers, human resources staff and potential applicants on how to properly navigate those systems, they said.

"Systems do not give people brains or guts," said Angela Bailey, deputy associate director of recruitment and hiring at the Office of Personnel Management. "You can keep creating new systems, but if you don't have those two factors, the system, whether it's current or new, will fail."

Agencies also should look beyond metrics like time to hire to things that aren't done well, such as the percentage of candidates who abandon their applications because the process is too complex, and then use that information to make real progress, Desenberg said.

"This stuff is not complicated," said Bailey. "We just overanalyze everything. Just do it. Make it simple."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.