Online talent tools assist HR in shaping fed workforce

More managers are using the tools to decide when they need to train existing employees, hire new employees or employ contractors to fill gaps

Human resources offices seeking better ways to assess employee skills on a large scale, often agencywide, are turning to competency management tools. Those tools give managers a snapshot of where they need employees with certain skills.

Some workforce experts say competency assessment tools could become critical aids for filling the gaps that retiring baby boomers will leave in the federal workforce in the next few years.

'With the amount of people eligible to retire, it makes a whole lot of sense for agencies to look at the competencies that they need,' said Kevin Mahoney, associate director of human capital leadership at the Office of Personnel Management.

Mahoney said managers can use competency tools to decide whether they need to train existing employees, hire new employees or use contractors to fill gaps. He said the choice often hinges on what particular information technology skills are necessary. The IT skills agencies need change as technology changes, but leadership skills are always needed, he said.

OPM offers agencies a free application called the Federal Competency Assessment Tool for conducting workforce assessments. Companies, including Plateau Systems, also offer talent assessment tools. Those assessment tools typically include surveys that employees complete online. Then the employees meet with their supervisors to validate their self-assessments.

With its release of the assessment tool in February, OPM also introduced a Career Patterns initiative to help agencies map their hiring needs to groups of people who most likely have the necessary skills.

Also, some agencies choose to buy tools that help them assess workforce competencies.

Jeffrey Bryan, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency's Human Capital Planning Branch, said EPA selected survey tools from Plateau Systems as the basis for agencywide talent management initiatives. The agency distributed skills assessment surveys to its employees between December 2006 and February.

'On defined competencies, individuals can self-assess and, through their supervisors, determine knowledge gaps,' said Bob Brueckman, senior vice president of global services at Plateau Systems.

Other agencies have chosen a different approach to placing the right
employees where and when they are needed. NASA supervisors, for example, can select employees from the agency's competency database to find the people best suited to work on particular projects.

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