OPM advances skills-based hiring initiative with common competencies update for federal jobs
The federal government’s HR agency said it surveyed more than 90,000 federal workers to update its list of common skillsets needed in federal employment.
The Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday that it has completed a multi-year effort to update a government-wide list of common skills needed for federal workers to succeed in an array of jobs at agencies, in support of the government’s broader push to institute skills-based hiring.
The shift within the federal hiring process toward emphasizing applicants’ job experience and skills rather than their educational attainment is a rare piece of civil service reform to garner bipartisan support. President Biden’s OPM has continued to implement the provisions of an executive order signed by then-President Trump in 2020, while the Chance to Compete Act, a bill codifying many elements of skills-based hiring into law, has broad bipartisan support, passing the House unanimously last January.
Thus far, the effort has primarily focused on shifting the federal hiring process from one where applicants self-report their skills and qualifications to one where a series of exams and interviews with agency subject matter experts are used to discern which applicants will succeed in a position, as well as the development of shared certifications, where a federal job applicant could be deemed qualified for a position, and if they aren’t hired by one agency, they then can be hired by another agency searching for similar candidates.
Thursday’s update to the “general competencies” required in a wide array of federal positions is the culmination of more than two years of work, including a survey of more than 90,000 frontline federal employees and supervisors across more than 300 positions about the skills needed to be a successful civil servant.
“OPM will continue to support agencies and collect critical data that strengthens our workforce and enables us to deliver services for the American people,” said OPM Director Kiran Ahuja. “This update to the Federal Workforce Competency Initiative will help agencies hire the talent they need and expand opportunities for positions that do not require certain degrees.”
The update identifies “critical general competencies” for a variety of common professions at federal agencies, including professional, administrative, technical, clerical and other occupations. It highlights 32 skillsets required across more than 200 job series, ranging from general skills such as attention to detail, interpersonal skills and problem solving, to more specialized traits, such as conflict management, organizational awareness and negotiating.
“For the FWCI, OPM focused on a subset of the general competencies from past [Multipurpose Occupational Systems Analysis Inventory—Closed-Ended] studies,” Ahuja wrote in a memo to agency chief human capital officers Thursday. “OPM explored emerging competencies for this study, which are highlighted in the FAQs. The competencies in this survey were selected because they were identified as being used governmentwide across multiple occupational categories. With the changing nature of work, it was important to verify that these competencies are still reflective of the work currently being performed in agencies.”