Federal HR skills may not be sufficient to tackle reforms

New report says government human resource pros not equipped to improve hiring, retention of employees

The Obama administration has set its sights on improving the way the government hires, motivates and keeps employees, but a new report indicates that top human capital officials believe many federal human resource professionals might not have the necessary skills to tackle the job.

The Partnership for Public Service, which advocates for policies that help attract people into government service, released a report Aug. 18 titled “Closing the Gap: Seven Obstacles to a First-Class Federal Workforce.” Since 2007, the organization and business consulting firm Grant Thornton have been interviewing chief human capital officers (CHCOs) and HR pros about the government’s ability to hire and keep federal workers.


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One of the top observations gleaned through interviews for the latest report—the third to come out of the effort—is that CHCOs feel many of the 25,000 HR pros do not have the necessary skills to help agencies improve HR operations and workforce management. And many CHCOs believe the situation might worsen as new hiring reforms increase pressures on and expectations for those HR employees.

Some of the other main obstacles identified through the interviews include:

  • An antiquated and overly rigid pay and classification system, and inequities in the pay flexibilities available to agencies.
  • Uncertainty over the future of pay-for-performance efforts, especially in light of the failed National Security Personnel System.
  • An uneven relationship between CHCOs and the Office of Personnel Management; although OPM gets good marks from CHCOs, its aggressive reform agenda is straining agency resources.
  • A lack of investment in training for federal managers and supervisors, particularly in leadership and workforce management skills.

To read the report, click here.

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