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Federal Managers Increasingly Unhappy With Hiring Process

Senior executive applicant pool is a particular concern.

The Obama administration has prioritized improving hiring and recruiting at federal agencies, but the managers dealing with those efforts do not report seeing any improvement in the conditions on the ground.

In a recently released update on the administration’s “cross-agency priority goals,” federal supervisors’ satisfaction with hiring and recruiting practices has actually ticked downward in targeted areas, and the figures remain well short of the government’s goals.

Using the most updated Chief Human Capital Officers Management Survey, the Office of Personnel Management and the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office reported a downturn in the number of hiring managers with direct involvement in workforce planning and recruitment efforts.

Just more than four in 10 hiring managers said they personally participated in recruitment and outreach efforts for job vacancies in the third quarter of fiscal 2015, down from the 44 percent baseline. A higher rate -- 64 percent -- of hiring managers said they are involved in workforce planning, but that was still down 2 percentage points from the baseline and well short of the 76 percent target.

OPM and the White House reported the lowest levels of satisfaction with the pool of candidates looking to join the top ranks of civil service. Less than half of hiring managers were satisfied with the quality of Senior Executive Service managers, down 13 percentage points in the most recent quarter from the 60 percent baseline. Overall, satisfaction with the quality of federal applicants ticked up one point to 61 percent. That figure still fell well short of the 70 percent target. 

Across government, just about half of employees said the skill level of their coworkers has improved, according to the most recent Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey, also down slightly from the previous year.

The latest figures represent a step backward after they had improved slightly last year.

The baselines were developed in fiscal 2014 as part of the ongoing “cross-agency priority goals” established by the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act. The Office of Management and Budget and its partner agencies track progress on goals across government, from contractor performance to agency sustainability efforts, with results published on

OMB this month released 92 agency priority goals for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, about 40 percent of which are new. OPM’s nine strategic goals, which include an “engaged federal workforce” and “enhanced federal workforce integrity,” remain unchanged from the initial rollout two years ago.

Congress has recently shown an interest in improving some elements of the federal hiring process, which for years has suffered from a reputation that it is too lengthy, dictated by archaic rules and generally bogged down by red tape. Obama this year signed a bill making it easier for agencies to hire temporary, seasonal workers as full-time employees and both chambers have made progress on a measure to enable better sharing of information on job applicants.

OPM is also seeking to smooth the hiring process with its REDI (recruitment, engagement, diversity and inclusion) initiative. Part of that effort will include a major refresh of USAJOBS in early 2016, the federal jobs portal that in 2014 served 187 million people conducting 1 billion job searches. OPM has said that and other programs -- such as deploying teams to help agencies use various flexibilities in hiring authorities and write job announcements; attracting science, technology, engineering and mathematics applicants; and identifying where underrepresented demographic groups are located -- will “unite the knots” of federal hiring.

So far, it seems, hiring managers are not seeing the fruits of those efforts. 

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