10 steps to address the federal hiring freeze

man planning layoffs

With a new presidential administration, the only thing that's certain is that there will be many changes for human capital leaders.

We already know, however, that the hiring freeze is in place, causing much angst throughout the federal workforce. And we also know that President Donald Trump will look to run government like a business, to the extent he can, and that he's voiced support for corporate-like policies such as pay for performance.

Given the ongoing, pending and potential shifts, federal human capital leaders should look to make adjustments that will effectively align their agency's strategies -- especially those impacting performance management -- to the likely near- and long-term future direction. Here's a 10-step plan to do just that:

Automate. If you're still manually completing performance reviews, you're behind the times. Today's solutions automate such processes, saving countless hours and dollars. Those resorting to "pen and paper" or scans of appraisal forms won't be able to keep up with the pace of government's evolving workforce and mission demands.

Enhance form generation. Similarly, you can go from "static" to "dynamic" form generation by auto-populating multiple form sections from multiple sources. In this case, a template approach replaces time-wasting tedium.

Embrace analytics. The new administration has pledged to scrutinize performance, and analytics can help to better track and quantify personnel assessments. Through these tools, managers will gain greater insight into where standout talent exists, and which areas are struggling. You'll more readily discover the "why" behind the "what" too -- i.e., what's driving success and what contributes to performance issues -- so you can come up with improvement recommendations to address the struggling areas.

Align employee goals and critical elements with the "big picture." If staffers don't understand how their day-to-day tasks serve the agency mission, then they simply have "jobs" as opposed to "careers." In addition, a counterproductive sense of disconnect will emerge between "what needs to get done" and what actually gets done.

Elevate engagement. Employees are motivated by more than pay. They thrive upon the feedback and support of their colleagues and managers. Toward this end, encourage regular communications between supervisors and staff -- don't wait until that annual review to let your people know how they're doing. Analytics tools can play a major role here too, by enabling the continuous tracking of interactions, goals and performance, with enterprise-wide visibility into engagement. Such capabilities will raise your human capital-focused outcomes to new levels -- work units that score in the top one-half in employee engagement nearly double their chances of success, compared to those in the bottom one-half, according to research from Gallup.

Advocate for employees' careers. Study after study has proven that -- when organizations demonstrate that they care about their workers' careers, and invest in mentoring, training and other programs to help them -- engagement and retention levels rise.

Prepare for successions. The Baby Boomer exodus is upon us. Again, with analytics, you'll pinpoint where the vacancies will appear -- and when. At the same time, you'll identify employees with the "right stuff" skills and competencies to fill these roles, and provide the necessary training and development so they can step right in with seamless successions.

Initiate workforce planning. Obviously, agencies can't pull off seamless succession planning -- or effectively respond to a wealth of other talent recruitment, onboarding, training and engagement requirements -- without a clear view of existing skill and competencies. Your planning must also factor in projected shortfalls, including those from impending retirements, the hiring freeze or any possible reduction in workforce that you should at least be thinking about, if not preparing for. In addition, you'll need carefully developed budgeting to secure funding for your proposals.

Ensure reconsideration procedures are in place. Track formal and informal reconsideration requests within the system so employees, managers, reviewing officials and HR have the necessary access for reporting and historical purposes.

And last but hardly least …

Get started. "Start small" is the best way to go, breaking down the journey into manageable steps that bring your agency significant wins. So do something, and do something now. You can launch a mission alignment effort in a small part of your agency, for example, to evaluate impact before taking on a broader implementation. Or you can replace a single, outdated legacy system for part of your organization with an automated, analytics-driven one -- to get a sense of the transition process -- before kicking off a more ambitious tech modernization/replacement project.

A changing federal workforce environment is upon us. But there are steps human capital leaders can take now to ensure their agencies are best prepared to position their workforces for success in this new world.

About the Author

Joe Abusamra is vice president of product marketing at Acendre.

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