CHCOs seek improved training, hiring flexibility

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The federal government has not kept pace with the rigors of the current budget climate, and as a result hiring and training continue to lag. Agencies are having a tough time motivating and rewarding their best workers, according to a survey of chief human capital officers published by the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton.

Federal employees continue to report lower job satisfaction and commitment to federal service on annual surveys, and sequestration and furloughs did not help matters. The October 2013 government shutdown may be a distant memory to the general public, but for feds, particularly those who were deemed non-essential, the events are still fresh. One CHCO told interviewers that "the effects will certainly linger for some time."

Even without the history of pay freezes, furloughs and fiscal constraints, CHCOs said they are operating in a challenging environment because of a performance management system that lacks credibility, an inability to reward top performers, a compensation structure designed for an era of paper-based clerical work, and a cumbersome hiring process.

Overall, CHCOs said modernization of the job classification system was the highest priority civil service reform, followed by pay, performance management and hiring. The human resources workforce itself suffers from many of the problems of archaic job classification and mismatched skill sets that plague the general federal employee pool.

More emphasis on training, recruiting workers with high-demand skillsets, better management to improve poor performers, and a rewrite of the general schedule pay system would go a long way to improving the human resources picture in government, CHCOs say. But one problem they solve in the current climate is how to compete with the private sector on pay and benefits in the most sought-after professions.

The report, like others before it, suggests using "nonmonetary incentives" such as increased responsibility to retain the most valued employees. But the report doesn't examine pay as an incentive, in light of the current budget situation. The goal of the report is to present the insights of federal human resources experts with an eye to planning "for how the government can begin to rebuild its battered workforce even within the reality of significant fiscal restraints."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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Reader comments

Thu, May 22, 2014

I'm not sure how increased responsibility is supposed to help. I’ve been taking on more responsibility for years now but am still stuck at the same pay grade I was hired at because of the archaic process of trying to change someone’s grade to reflect the work they actually do. This is something I never had a problem with when I worked the corporate side and is extremely demoralizing.

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