Strategies for finding and keeping new feds

Man picking a single green piece among white pieces 

Federal agencies are getting creative when it comes to attracting the workforce of the future – especially in competitive tech fields such as cybersecurity.

Rotating employees through different jobs can help, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education Director Rodney Peterson.

"The workforce is going to be more mobile going into the future, which is something we recognized recently," he said at a NextGov technology event on Oct. 8. "Rotational assignments [are] something we're very much looking forward to as a strategy for facilitating that mobility, rather than employees just choosing to leave on their own, maybe within a department or an agency, and they learn new ideas, new systems."

Veronica Villalobos, principal deputy associate director for employee services at the  Office of Personnel Management, sees opportunity  for training or reskilling current employees to do new types of work.

"There's a recognition that a certain percentage of our workforce will not be doing the kind of work that they do today. So, it becomes a question of how we give them the opportunity to gain the kind of skills that they'll need in the future," Villalobos said. "People who were bored in their jobs are excited to come to work again. They're finding new and better ways to do their work. It'll create agility and movement across the agency."

The Department of Agriculture's Deputy CIO Francisco Salguero talked about hiring for talent as opposed to specific, demonstrable skills.

"We've been looking at non-traditional working IT backgrounds," he said. "In today's IT world, you don't have to be a programmer. It's about understanding problems analytically."

Andréa Viza, director of talent at the U.S Digital Service, concurred. "We don't look for specifically educational backgrounds, especially in the technical fields. We take a personal approach and give [candidates] a chance to tell us their personal backgrounds, rather than just go off words on a piece of paper."

With Amazon slated to open new headquarters in the D.C. metro area, competition with private-sector companies for top tech talent has only surged, Viza said, stressing that agency missions have been vital for piquing the interest of more civic-minded applicants.

"I talk to so many people who are excited about changing digital services for the better," Viza said. "Those are the people who will end up staying a long time."

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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