OPM is providing agencies with a series of recruitment and retention flexibilities to help attract AI talent.

OPM is providing agencies with a series of recruitment and retention flexibilities to help attract AI talent. Dragos Condrea / Getty Images

OPM wants to entice more AI talent with new benefits guidance

The HR agency unveiled new pay and benefits flexibilities to help snag in-demand workers with expertise in artificial intelligence technology. 

Seeking to capitalize on the demand for artificial intelligence, the Office of Personnel Management unveiled new guidance Tuesday that would offer new pay and benefits incentives for hiring potential talent versed in the emerging technology. 

The guidance, which follows an October executive order on AI, provides federal agencies with a series of recruitment, retention, relocation and other hiring flexibilities to make it easier to bring aboard and keep AI talent. 

Most of those flexibilities may be deployed by agencies in combinations they see fit to attract talent, without prior approval from OPM, while others — such as special rates, critical pay and waivers — still require a sign-off.

As interest in AI grows, and new capabilities of the technology develop at an increasing pace, demand for talent that can utilize the tools will expand quickly. An August 2023 survey from the IBM Institute for Business Value said respondents expect 40% of their workforce will need to reskill as of 2026 because of AI and automation adoption, with the heaviest impacts expected to influence mid-level managers down to experienced and entry-level employees.

To undergird that technology infrastructure will require a lot of the most competitively sought-after employees on the market. 

OPM is giving agencies the flexibility to attract talent by offering recruitment incentives like up to 25% of basic pay multiplied by up to four years of service. That incentive structure also extends to relocation benefits for difficult-to-fill AI positions, as well as retention benefits that match 25% of basic pay for an individual or 10% for a group of employees who may leave federal service. 

Other potential benefits include student loan repayment options for AI talent, equaling $10,000 in a calendar year for up to $60,000, alongside work and leave flexibilities like alternative work schedules. 

Should agencies decide to, they can apply to OPM to seek waivers to obtain higher recruitment, relocations and retention incentive payment limits or apply special or critical position pay rates. 

The guidance comes as OPM is surveying federal employees using AI to determine what kind of skills competency model is needed for future AI jobs in the government, while also partnering with the General Services Administration, U.S. Digital Service on the government’s National AI Talent Surge to help strategize how to onboard new AI talent. 

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