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Feds to contractors: Stop whining about employee poaching

Federal employees, long accustomed to seeing their co-workers lured away by the promise of riches in the private sector, can’t be blamed for enjoying a little schadenfreude.

Agencies, they say, should not hesitate to turn the tables and offer contractor employees the opportunity to enjoy the decent pay, great benefits and job stability offered by public service.

Employee poaching became all the buzz after Washington Technology’s David Hubler reported that industry executives were concerned about it. Hubler based his article on interviews with Stan Soloway of the Professional Services Council, Anne Reed of Acquisition Solutions Inc. and unnamed industry leaders.

It’s not like agencies have never hired industry employees, but they are becoming much more aggressive about it. PSC and other organizations are hoping they can cooperate with Congress to “rein in” the practice, Soloway said (you can read the complete story here).

Many FCW readers aren’t buying it. Below is a sampling of what they wrote in comments on the story. Check out all the comments (click on “View all comments” to get the full lineup). Also be sure to read a similar blog post about the comments received by Washington Technology.

* Hey, Stan, Anne ... Our agency needs top IT acquisition people. Key policy positions too. With credentials like yours, we could probably swing, say, $177K. Interested? Didn't think so.
-- Jim

* Companies weren't complaining when they were actively recruiting resources from the government ranks. Often hiring the best and the brightest after they were trained by the government. Employees with security clearances were snatched up quickly. Funny, companies don't like it when the shoe is on the other foot.

* [It’s] hard to understand why someone in today's IT world would say no to a nice GS civil-service position that offers good pay, great benefits, vacation, sick leave and personal time, plus a retirement plan -- versus the corporate world that is nuking everyone left and right, even if you have 20 years or 30 years or 10 years great experience...

* Private industry has recruited from government ranks, especially post-retirement, and no one cares, but runs to the bank. So, that's OK; however, when government seeks the "best and brightest," why is that so bad?
-- Alfonso

* I don't think contractors should complain about the government beginning to do what they have done for decades. We've had plenty of IT people quit or retire on a Friday and come back the next Monday working for a contractor with the contractor charging as much as 250 percent of what the employee was being paid by the government.
-- Erich

* LOL! This is the funniest thing that I have ever heard! During the Bush administration, the exact opposite was true. It was contractors doing the poaching by flashing large amounts of cash under the noses of federal employees. Many federal employees were poached simply for their security clearance. My, how times have changed.

* In addition to the question of whether workers have the same right to the benefits of competition and a free market, doesn't government have the same right to the benefits of competition and a free market? Stan and Anne are two of the more reasonable voices from the contracting community, but their lamentations are very revealing. It's getting hot in the kitchen and government's playing the same game that contractors have been playing for years and turning up the heat.

* This is a non-issue. It's a practice that has been going on in our free market for decades that's not limited to government. It's only common sense that a worker will seek the highest pay for their craft and always will. 'Nuff said.
-- Gary

Here’s a slightly different perspective from a federal employee:

* I feel bad for the contractors that have their people stolen, but being a govie of 30+ years, I feel bad for us too! Our government is letting us down and sending a clear message that we just plain aren’t "good enough" and they are making that determination without giving us a chance to apply! It just isn’t right and we are OUTRAGED!

And here are a few thoughts from some contract employees:

* There definitely should be a clause inclusive in government contracts that protects industry's employees. I agree whole heartedly with Ms. Reed. I have witnessed many contract staff hires at the GS-15 w/ recruitment bonuses and the like in the government's attempt to flip contract employees. Conversely, government employees being flipped to contractor employees is by far minimal in comparison. Industry isn't complaining, industry just expects what is good for us ought to be good for government...

* This sure explains one thing: what a joke the federal hiring process is. Whenever a federal job is listed the manager almost always already has somebody lined up for the job. They will write job descriptions tailored to the skills of the person they want to hire to make sure that person makes the candidate list and if they don't they re-post the job with revised requirements. The agency where I work (as a contractor) listed a job three separate times because the person the manager wanted to hire couldn't make the list of candidates. They ended up not hiring anybody.
-- R

And a final thought from a contractor:

* I'm not sure I see the problem. If any employer spots talent they have an obligation to their organization to try to capture it. You, as an individual contributor, have a right to be employed to your best advantage. We are all government practitioners even though we get our paychecks from different parts of the Treasury. Of course holding companies hostage or "bypassing" civil servant hiring processes is not appropriate behavior.
-- ContractorDude

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Aug 27, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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