What do the federal workforce and cloud computing have in common?

The federal government should look to the cloud computing model and apply it to federal human capital to address some of the challenges that have emerged in the wake of technology advances in the 21st century, according to a new whitepaper.

Deloitte Consulting LLP’s newly released report posits that the federal government should create a flexible workforce that can rapidly acclimatize to future work requirements, by taking note of the cloud computing structure. The main traits of cloud computing – such as shared resources, cost efficiency and virtualization – could be applied to the federal workforce to increase its flexibility and efficiency, the report states.

In the cloud-based federal workforce, or Fed Cloud, “knowledge workers” would move from a single agency to working for the federal government at large, said Dan Helfrich, a principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP and Federal Human Capital practice leader who also served as project sponsor of Fed Cloud.

“What that would then mean is that the tasks those people worked on, the programs they were associated with, they could change from week to week, from month to month, from year to year, depending on where their skills were mostly needed,” he explained.

Federal employees with different backgrounds and varying expertise would act as “free agents: self-sufficient workers who display loyalty to teams," the report states. Over the course of a career, the average federal employee in the Fed Cloud would work with many more people, departments and agencies, and a broader set of problems than today, Helfrich said. For those employees, it would become important to embrace flexible work arrangements and know how to be a truly mobile workforce.

“Workplace flexibility is a critical enabler of the Fed Cloud model, so people will need to be able to work remotely and virtually and … use concepts such as hoteling in government office spaces so that there are fewer permanent spaces and more spaces for collaboration,” he said.

In adopting the Fed Cloud model, the federal government would have a significant talent recruiting and retention advantage, with ROI that could be measured in the greater number of those who choose to work for and stay with the public sector, Helfrich said.

The Fed Cloud model would also reduce the demand for permanent structures to erect new offices and to create new full-time, permanent positions, allowing what Helfrich called a more dynamic allocation of labor to the needs of the time. Additionally, Fed Cloud would also dramatically change the role of human resources professionals, although they would continue to manage employees in the same capacity as today when it comes to hiring, evaluating and compensating workers. However, the processes to train and track people at the government level would change with the new structure.

“The HR professionals are going to have to manage a more virtual workforce; they’re going to need to manage performance and gather their feedback from a broader set of people than are done today,” Helfrich said. “I see this is a way to further the dialog on performance management overall, so that we get to a more outcome-based and more results-oriented way to evaluate people.”

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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