Retention woes challenge government contractors

coworkers at computer (SFIO CRACHO/ 

According to a recent study from Deltek, government contractors are struggling to attract and retain qualified candidates.

Deltek's 11th Government Contracting Industry Study, carried out between January and March 2020, said that turnover was common, and that the need for highly specialized roles in fields such as information technology made for a tight labor market.

"Finding, recruiting and retaining qualified talent continues to challenge the government contracting sector," the report states. "Talent shortages and commercial competition for candidates have complicated matters for human capital management leaders."

Deltek's report speculated that part of the issue were declining budgets and a lack of mechanisms in place to ensure career development, noting that 79% of responding companies did not have career development plans in place.

According to the study, 73% of respondents struggled to find qualified talent.

Amy Champigny, Deltek's Senior Product Marketing Manager, said that despite record-breaking levels of unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for personnel to fulfill government contracting roles remained the same.

"These are highly specialized roles. The qualifications are highly regulated, in high demand and short supply," she told FCW in an interview.

"For a lot of contractors, it's been business as usual."

Deltek also reported that turnover rates made a "considerable jump" from the previous year; 47% of large companies responded that they had 16% or higher turnover rates, though the report noted that the average amount of time it took to fill vacancies remained steady year over year.

The study noted that more and more firms were relying on outsourcing companies to recruit job candidates, "an expensive solution to a potentially broader problem."

In attention to retention and an inability to compete with private companies' compensation and benefits packages, both human resources and talent acquisition experts reported that complying with HR policies proved challenging.

"Producing reports and documentation to satisfy audit requests continues to challenge many organizations," the report read, noting that this specified complying with "ever changing regulations" and understanding new policies and their impacts.

"Adequate tracking and reporting continue to be a hindrance for HR professionals using outdated or generic solutions."

Champigny said that the pandemic illuminated the failings of conventional performance management techniques, as managers no longer had immediate access to their employees once offices pivoted to remote work.

"A lot of companies still do annual performance appraisals. How do you do that when people are working remotely?" she said, adding that continuous performance evaluations could be a solution.

She said she expected the pandemic to induce contractors to rethink current workplace arrangements and introduce new flexibilities to attract much needed talent.

"It's been interesting to watch this year and for next and see how organizations are going to adopt a hybrid approach [of remote work and in-person offices]. We haven't seen government contractors do this before. There are some sectors where that's not possible, but the market might now demand it."

About the Author

Lia Russell is a former staff writer and associate editor at FCW.


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