OPM cites progress with strategy to add flexibility to federal hiring

Agency counts on innovative strategy to attract employees to public service

OPM’s Career Patterns Guide

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The Office of Personnel Management is putting a great deal of stock in its alternative career patterns initiative as a way of attracting new workers to government service and competing with the private sector for qualified employees.

“The talent pool is much smaller than the demand,” said Linda Springer, OPM’s director. “The government’s position is not unique, she said. “Every company around the world is going to be in the same situation.”

Speaking at the recent Federal Financial Management Conference
in Washington, D.C., Springer said OPM is working through the federal Chief Human Capital Officers Council to advance the alternative career patterns approach to hiring. Springer is chairwoman of the CHCO Council’s executive committee.

OPM is requiring executive agencies to integrate alternative
career patterns into their hiring practices by Oct. 1. The strategy recognizes the emergence of new work patterns, such as telework and flexible work schedules.

“The idea of looking at career patterns is a new concept” developed by OPM, said Janet Barnes, the agency’s chief information officer. For example, Barnes said, retirees from the private sector might work for the government in specialized positions for several months.
OPM’s Career Patterns Guide illustrates the concept with these scenarios:

  • Midcareer technology experts spend a few years on a groundbreaking federal project before rotating back out to work in the private or non-profit sector.
  •  Benefits adjudicators review cases and work from home at any hour of the day or night.
It’s a question of taking reaching different potential employees and “matching up work characteristics with the available pool of talent,” said Barnes, who was a panelist at a recent Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) luncheon.

For the strategy to be successful, federal agencies will have to do market research “in much greater depth and around specific career patterns,” Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, told the AFFIRM audience.

“Most agencies approach recruiting talent as a passive experience,” Stier said. “They post a job on the Web, and
typically they post it in language that is not all that attractive. That’s not enough.”

OPM launched the initiative last June. It asked agencies to perform inventories of job titles by Jan. 1 and link occupations with characteristics such as flexible work arrangements. 

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