Gordon: Management demands tag along with rebuilding a workforce

Federal workforce managers have a delicate job of tending to their employees

As the Obama administration wants to pour resources into rebuilding the acquisition workforce, management challenges are certain to tag closely behind, according to a federal senior procurement official.

The administration has proposed $133 million in fiscal 2011 to hire and train new federal employees who then would join the ranks of the government’s acquisition staffs. When these new employees arrive, the managers must get them trained and supervised appropriately. Otherwise, the employees may not stick around too long, said Daniel Gordon, administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP).

“These are major challenges if we’re going to help them develop professionally and stay,” he said.

Rebuilding the acquisition workforce is one of Gordon's highest priorites as OFPP administrator. To help him, he's also searching for someone to fill a new senior position in his policy office to focus on the acquisition workforce issues.

Federal workforce managers have a delicate job of tending to their employees. Managers have to send employees to practical training that they can actually use in the office. And the managers have to know each of their employees so that the training comes at just the right time, Gordon said. Training employees too soon wastes their time, but if it’s too late, the training won’t be useful.

“I think we need to be sure that participants in classes, at the end of the day, feel that their time was well spent,” he said. “That’s really the test.”

As the administration attempts to refill agencies’ acquisition offices, managers of those government employees need to make sure to treat them well, even down to the little things, Gordon said. On the first day, they should have a phone and a computer that work and a full stock of office supplies. The manager should even consider taking them to lunch, he said.

“The first day is a really important experience for people, and they risk remembering it for 30 years thereafter,” Gordon said.

Overall, while the administration's proposed funding would go to strengthening the workforce in numbers, there’s more.

“I’ve got to tell you. I think that has a morale component. It’s not only a question of more dollars. It’s also a question of more attention,” he said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Wed, May 26, 2010

Well - there is an entire body of qualified acquisition professionals that are overlooked because they lack a college degree yet carry with them years of specialized training AND experience. Why not convert those "non-promotable" 1102's to 1101's, allow them to be promoted, and use them as mentors for the new force of interns coming on board. We have served our Government for 20 and 30 years and in essence, got "put out to pasture" in 2000 due to a lack of a degree. Let us retain our dignity, share our lifes lessons, become promotable and valuable again, and maybe some of us wont be chomping at the bit to leave for there is nothing left for us. Most of us "oldtimers" are under CSRS and will be leaving due to our careers being put on permanent freeze. Industry will almost double my salary and not require college. Give me something meaningful to do, let me share 30 years of experience, afford me the same promotion potential that the college degrees have and I for one would probably stay. Its the new acquisition professionals who will be handling my tax dollars, and I for one would like to see it done effectively and responsibly.

Mon, Mar 22, 2010 Steve Chantilly

Earth to mr Gordon: It's the 21st Century. Focus your management on the systems, They are 20th Century. Do this and your workforce will take care of itself. Stop hiring more bodies to solve 21st Century problems.

Mon, Mar 22, 2010 Steve Chantilly

The problem is Congress and it's continuous meddling and narrow-minded "tweaking" of acquisition law. Gordon would do well to speak up about this. Acquisition doesn;t keep stellar young people because it makes no logical sense and is full of values systems that do not serve the taxpaying public. Finally, what the government needs is not more people. It needs better people and systems that support and streamline the acquisition process. It doesn't need 800 systems and 300 IDIQ contracts. It needs fewer acquisition resources - not more.

Mon, Mar 22, 2010 Beel VA

That comment about remembering "first day treatment" is so true! I remember my first day- the second-line supervisor introduced me to the guy who would be my boss, and HE said "great! Another mouth to feed!" He's working elsewhere now, but I'll never forget that. If I didn't need the job so badly, I would've punched him in the nose...

Fri, Mar 19, 2010 Allen

The future of Federal Government acquisition requires that we get highly motivated educated individuals to join the acquisition community. Our agency is small but we are in the process of hiring four interns. It will be difficult to find the time to devote to their training because we are understaffed. However, we plan to do everything we can to keep our interns involved in learning and enthusiastic about staying in the acquisition career field. This will be a challenge, one I hope other agencies will take on. Without all of us working and supporting the intern process the acquisition careen field will continue to deteriorate.

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