3 agencies submit to Extreme Hiring Makeover

The experiment tested the suitability of private-sector hiring practices for the government, and broke at least one speed record.

Extreme Hiring Makeover case studies

Initial results from a 10-month experiment to streamline the federal government’s bureaucratic hiring process show that it is possible to hire a qualified new federal employee in 22 days.

Three federal agencies facing immediate and difficult hiring challenges volunteered to participate in the Partnership for Public Service’s Extreme Hiring Makeover, a public/private partnership created to improve federal hiring practices. Speaking in Washington, D.C., yesterday, officials from those agencies said the experimental program demonstrated that private-sector hiring practices could be effective in the federal government.

“Our student loan repayment program was a huge help in getting the right scientists,” said James Cavanagh, deputy associate administrator for management and administration at the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration. “Now we need to figure out how to keep them.”

John Mondragon, director of human resources at the Education Department's Federal Student Aid Office, said the Extreme Hiring Makeover enabled the office to reduce by almost half of a 114-step hiring process. Mondragon illustrated the complexity of the former process by unfurling a banner that displayed what he said was the agency’s process map for hiring new employees. It stretched about 12 feet across the Rotunda Room at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in downtown Washington.

Mondragon said the 114-step process required 45 handoffs between hiring managers and human resource specialists. The agency has not finished revamping the system, he said, but “we’re on our way to a much better process than we had.”

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was the agency that hired an employee in 22 days. That set a speed record, said Charlene Brown, deputy chief operating officer.

Seven human resource companies and organizations -- Alliance of Information & Referral Systems, Brainbench, CPS Human Resource Services, ePredix, Human Capital Institute, Korn/Ferry International and Monster Government Solutions -- offered their software and consulting services at no charge to the agencies that participated in the hiring experiment.

Many employment experts agree that the federal government faces a significant hiring challenge because more than half of all federal employees will be eligible to retire within the next five years.

Problems with the federal hiring process are well known, said Marcia Marsh, vice president for government transformation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that promotes public-service employment. In some cases, federal job application instructions run to 35 pages. Job applicants often wait six months or more to get a job offer. During that time, agency officials typically do little, if anything, to communicate with job applicants who are waiting.

Marsh said she hopes that results from the Extreme Hiring Makeover will inspire other federal agencies by example.

To further help federal agencies improve their hiring practices, Marta Perez, assistant director for human capital leadership and merit system accountability at the Office of Personnel Management, said OPM is developing a hiring template, a tool that it will release to agencies later this year.

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