OPM rule offers hiring flexibilities

Federal Register notice

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"NARA's skills gap"

The Office of Personnel Management released an interim rule June 13 that would make it easier for agencies to assess job candidates and to hire people for hard-to-fill positions, among other workforce flexibilities.

The rule implements governmentwide flexibilities that were contained in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

Specifically, the rule provides agencies with:

* Flexibility in assessing job applicants using category rating instead of the "rule of three," which uses a numerical ranking.

* Ability to select candidates using direct-hire procedures where there is a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need exists, such as in cybersecurity.

* Authority to pay or reimburse the costs of academic degree training.

* Increased flexibility to use academic degree training to address agency-specific human capital requirements and objectives.

None of those flexibilities are totally new, OPM Director Kay Coles James wrote in the Federal Register notice. Category rating "has been used successfully by some agencies for a decade or more," she wrote. The flexibilities were "proposed after broad consultation with a variety of stakeholders, including employees, managers and the human resources community."

As a result, James asked that the regulations be made effective immediately. OPM will consider public comments submitted before Aug. 12.

OPM also issued separate interim regulations in the Federal Register today that explain how an agency requests authority from OPM to offer voluntary early retirement to its employees. This flexibility was also contained in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

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