Workforce

White House makes final push to streamline federal hiring

Shutterstock image (by Jirsak): customer care, relationship management, and leadership concept.

White House officials want federal agencies to make better use of the hiring authorities at their disposal.

On Nov. 3, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan and Office of Personnel Management Acting Director Beth Cobert sent a memo to agency heads that encourages "the adoption of practical solutions that have been proven...to tackle the most common barriers agencies face in the federal hiring process."

In the memo, with the subject line "Institutionalizing Hiring Excellence to Achieve Mission Outcomes," Donovan and Cobert specify three critical objectives and corresponding best practices for achieving those goals, along with a timeline for implementation.

The first objective is for agencies to strengthen the collaboration between hiring managers and human resources teams and to clearly define each group's responsibilities in the hiring process.

Margot Conrad, director of education and outreach at the Partnership for Public Service, said developing an official process that prioritizes HR as a critical strategic consultant and partner for hiring managers entails a substantial cultural change.

"The time you put into it on the front end is ultimately going to have significant benefits on the back end," she told FCW.

The second objective is to focus on workforce planning and strategic recruitment through data-driven decision-making and outreach.

Success in that area will require making sure agencies know what tools are available to them. According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, federal agencies used just 20 of the 105 available hiring authorities for 91 percent of new hires in fiscal 2014.

Additionally, the report states that 40 percent of federal managers are not actively involved in workforce recruiting.

Conrad said reaching out to communities through social media, traveling and building relationships over time are essential to attracting diverse, talented employees.

"There's a lot that agencies can be doing in terms of branding and marketing and messaging as ways they reach out to talent sources," she said. "Recruiting for a position can't just be posting it on USAJobs."

Making a bad hiring decision can be costly, and the GAO report states that almost 20 percent of federal managers rated their hiring questionnaires as poor at assessing candidates.

To assist agencies, OPM will provide training sessions for HR departments and hold forums to solicit feedback from CIOs, chief financial officers and chief acquisition officers.

OPM also plans to send hiring data to agencies by Nov. 14 to show them where they can improve and is asking each agency to identify three practices it plans to prioritize.

However, Conrad said that requirement might not go far enough.

Agencies "frankly should already be doing all of these things to make sure they're strategically hiring the next generation," she said. "You can't really cherry-pick and say you're going to focus on one or two steps of the process.... It's something that needs to be looked at holistically."

She would like to see the next administration build on the progress that has been made so far and continue to reduce barriers to hiring interns and others interested in government employment.

"Regardless of who's in the White House, these are the right steps that agencies should be taking and agencies should be focusing on," Conrad said.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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