Gordon: Management demands tag along with rebuilding a workforce

Federal workforce managers have a delicate job of tending to their employees

As the Obama administration wants to pour resources into rebuilding the acquisition workforce, management challenges are certain to tag closely behind, according to a federal senior procurement official.

The administration has proposed $133 million in fiscal 2011 to hire and train new federal employees who then would join the ranks of the government’s acquisition staffs. When these new employees arrive, the managers must get them trained and supervised appropriately. Otherwise, the employees may not stick around too long, said Daniel Gordon, administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP).

“These are major challenges if we’re going to help them develop professionally and stay,” he said.

Rebuilding the acquisition workforce is one of Gordon's highest priorites as OFPP administrator. To help him, he's also searching for someone to fill a new senior position in his policy office to focus on the acquisition workforce issues.

Federal workforce managers have a delicate job of tending to their employees. Managers have to send employees to practical training that they can actually use in the office. And the managers have to know each of their employees so that the training comes at just the right time, Gordon said. Training employees too soon wastes their time, but if it’s too late, the training won’t be useful.

“I think we need to be sure that participants in classes, at the end of the day, feel that their time was well spent,” he said. “That’s really the test.”

As the administration attempts to refill agencies’ acquisition offices, managers of those government employees need to make sure to treat them well, even down to the little things, Gordon said. On the first day, they should have a phone and a computer that work and a full stock of office supplies. The manager should even consider taking them to lunch, he said.

“The first day is a really important experience for people, and they risk remembering it for 30 years thereafter,” Gordon said.

Overall, while the administration's proposed funding would go to strengthening the workforce in numbers, there’s more.

“I’ve got to tell you. I think that has a morale component. It’s not only a question of more dollars. It’s also a question of more attention,” he said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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