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Why agencies can't attract top talent

In response to a recent blog post, a reader suggested that federal agencies are their own worst enemy when it comes to recruiting top talent.

Blogger Steve Kelman wrote about the prospects of new Harvard grads entering public service. He was pleasantly surprised to find a number of seniors who were open to the idea of working for the government, even if they had no definite plans at the moment.

But a reader named Joe is concerned that many new recruits are likely to be horrified by what they find in federal offices.

“From my short time in the federal government thus far, the one word that I would use to describe my work environment is 'primitive,'” Joe writes. “The physical space itself is old and decrepit. The IT infrastructure is so old (Windows 2K, MS Office 2000, etc.) that we can't even read documents sent from within our own department.”

Another problem, perhaps even more damaging, is bureaucratic mindset of senior career employees, Joe writes – people “who equate attendance with work and seem to be trying to keep their head down (translated as risk avoidance) and just kill time until retirement.”

In short, even if federal agencies are able to lure top-flight graduates by offering them job security, “boring work, poor work environments, obsolete IT infrastructure, risk-averse leadership and lack of career development opportunities will force them to leave.”

What do you think?

Posted on May 27, 2010 at 12:18 PM


Reader comments

Tue, Jul 6, 2010

I SOOOOOO agree with this commentary. I have been a civil servant for only two months and I still don't have all the acess to complete my job. However, being that the commute is closer to home, I have a flexible work schedule and the opportunity to telework, I believe I made the best decision for my family, not necessarily my career. Just wanted to point out though, that it was better pay, benefits and all coming from industry to gov't. Being only 28 years old, I don't think I made a bad choice!

Thu, Jun 17, 2010 JoeDirt U.S.A.

I retired from the Air Force, and the only place IT used to work well was overseas, where there was no civil service workers to get in the way. I'm now a contractor at a defense organization in the Air Force. It's still true today. The contractors aren't actually bad because they can be fired quite easily. They, and the military are "hamstringed" by the vampire-like GS bureaucrats that infest stateside facilities. Unfortunately, the Air Force also screwed themselves overseas when they came up with AFNETOPS. That's the biggest financial and tactical failure I've ever seen. It's all a joke and needs a heavy hand. In fact, at my location, I've seen one GS sleep in his cubicle four hours a day. Another reads books all day. Another plays games. Another goes to lunch for two hours and comes back punch-drunk. Tell me there isn't a problem, and I'll call you a liar.

Thu, Jun 17, 2010

On funding Government to have updated equipment and streamlining regularions bear in mind several things. Many members of Congress and sometimes the Admininistration in power have for years run on a platform of "government is bad, starve the government." Basically, many want government to fail for their own political purposes. This also affects the quality of the political managers you appoint. Try running an effective private business when the CEO who runs the company thinks it shouldn't exist and wants to drive it into the ground. I am not naming names here, but fill in the blanks and you know what group of people I am describing. Furthermore, unlike the private sector, government is burdened with tons of regulations and demands from Congress. The Hill often views government as their hobby horse. Government employees may have wonderful ideas on how better to do things, but are gasping under the weight of existing demands from budgets and regs written by 25 year old Hill staffers.

Thu, Jun 17, 2010 Los Angeles

From what I've heard the work environment at the Department of Veternas Affairs and the GSA is much better than most other federal agencies. That narrows my search when considering relocation to another geographical location.

Thu, Jun 17, 2010 sim card sms recovery http://www.simrecovery.com

I also think likes you, there is a emergence need to update the whole federal agencies working style with old and useless equipments used by them in today scenario. These federal agencies also need to retire old employees who only come In office for attendance and time pass, and give chance for newly age graduates at the place of them.

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