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By Judith Welles

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A silver lining in the federal retirement wave

First the bad news: In just four years, half of the permanent full-time federal workforce will be eligible to retire. What’s more, a majority of the retirees will be supervisors, according to the Merit Systems Protection Board in a new report.

Now the good news: Think of the opportunity this gives federal agencies to put a new stamp on their entire workforce.

Because supervisors tend to be older with more years of service, MSPB researchers believe, they are likely to retire at faster rates than other employees. They will leave big holes, if not shoes, to fill.

But in its report, “As Supervisors Retire: An Opportunity to Reshape Organizations” , MSPB also sees rich potential in this workforce change.

The report discusses how the next generation of supervisors will have to demonstrate a different set of competencies than may have been needed in the past.

The way work is accomplished and the nature of supervision is becoming more complex in the information age. More federal jobs are becoming knowledge-based, and information technology workers are among the critical knowledge workers.

According to the MSPB, this changes what supervisors should be doing and calls for different duties, skills, training and recruitment strategies. A knowledge-based workforce requires greater supervisory flexibilities, such as telework, and improved supervisory communication.

The report recommends that agencies use the retirement wave as an impetus to recruit supervisors capable of managing a modern workplace. For example, competency in supervising independent, educated and internally motivated workers should be assessed when selecting supervisors.

But the report concludes that, in order to engage employees, supervisors must also have strong management support and the time to devote to supervision.

Posted by Judith Welles on Dec 04, 2009 at 12:12 PM


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