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FCW Forum: How do you keep midcareer acquisition employees?

Agencies’ “gray beards,” their most experienced procurement employees, are handling a large portion of the workload while teaching the newcomers about the intricacies of the contracting process, acquisition experts say.

But the majority of contracting officers — those gray beards — will soon reach retirement age. Figures say an estimated 54 percent will be eligible by 2012. That makes midcareer employees who have experience in the field critical as the retirements increase in the coming years.

Although retirements have hovered below anticipated numbers, the workforce’s turnover has continued at a steady pace, averaging a 7.8 percent since 2000.

Considering that, the Federal Acquisition Institute said, among other things, the government needs to retain skilled employees through “care and feeding” — to keep the midcareer employees and their skills in the agency.

How do you care for and feed your midcareer employees? Are there ways to make them enjoy their jobs at your agency so that even a promotion at another agency won’t seem as inviting as staying where they are?

Posted on Jul 03, 2008 at 12:12 PM

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Reader comments

Thu, Jul 10, 2008 Grace Bailey

How do you keep mid-career aquisition employees? (1) give pay incentives (to stay)for those that maybe thinking of retiring or moving on; (2) provide training opportunities for employees that want to move up or into the field but do not have a degree (i.e. give them the necessary training to qualify); (3) keep the remaining employees in the loop of communication so they still feel they are a valued employee. A happy employee is a productive employee.

Wed, Jul 9, 2008 Erich Darr

Dear "Not yet being all you can be":You got your answer. Get the degree. Not all is fair in life. You may be very good, but if a degree is the requirement, why not get on with it and get it over with?

Wed, Jul 9, 2008 Moira BARAN

I have to agree with "Just Me". I'm looking for a 14, but with a MBA, it's even hard to get into the financial series, let alone Budget Analyst stuff. They have pidgeon holed serious professionals while requiring "business" classes and limiting the KSA's so it is literally impossible to change fields, hence, why shouldn't I go to private industry, it would be closer to home and I'd save gas...Why we tried this Level 3 Certification stuff and offended seasoned contracting professionals when we needed more well rounded people to keep them happy and capable of moving around, I don't know. Very short sighted.

Mon, Jul 7, 2008 Anne Hasselbrack

I'm a "mid-career" acquisition employee, and I don't know anyone who wouldn't get out now if they could. It's high stress and low recognition. Problem is, once you're among the higher grades, it's very hard to change career paths - no "time in grade" or ability to meet the KSAOs for any other fields. On the flip side, think of all the folks NOT in procurement who would gladly jump ship to help us out, but can't for those same reasons! If the government would make it easier to change career paths, think of all the people who would be in fields because they wanted to be there, not because "the system" got them stuck there until retirement.

Mon, Jul 7, 2008 John van Santen

There is very likely nothing more to do other than deal with the current policy of administration of employees. As Gen. Ernest J. Harrell said during the whirlwind deconstruction of the Corps of Engineers European Division in February 1990 (right after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the moritorium on construction), "It seems totally inconsistant that we tell this loyal and committed group of employees that their reward for successfully achieving U.S. and free world objectives is a RIF notice. (http://www.usace.army.mil/publications/misc/un25/)"

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