CHCOs seek improved training, hiring flexibility

As agency budgets continue to flatline, federal human resources executives see a need to transform the way the government recruits, hires, trains and rewards employees.

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The federal government has not kept pace with the rigors of the current budget climate, and as a result hiring and training continue to lag. Agencies are having a tough time motivating and rewarding their best workers, according to a survey of chief human capital officers published by the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton.

Federal employees continue to report lower job satisfaction and commitment to federal service on annual surveys, and sequestration and furloughs did not help matters. The October 2013 government shutdown may be a distant memory to the general public, but for feds, particularly those who were deemed non-essential, the events are still fresh. One CHCO told interviewers that "the effects will certainly linger for some time."

Even without the history of pay freezes, furloughs and fiscal constraints, CHCOs said they are operating in a challenging environment because of a performance management system that lacks credibility, an inability to reward top performers, a compensation structure designed for an era of paper-based clerical work, and a cumbersome hiring process.

Overall, CHCOs said modernization of the job classification system was the highest priority civil service reform, followed by pay, performance management and hiring. The human resources workforce itself suffers from many of the problems of archaic job classification and mismatched skill sets that plague the general federal employee pool.

More emphasis on training, recruiting workers with high-demand skillsets, better management to improve poor performers, and a rewrite of the general schedule pay system would go a long way to improving the human resources picture in government, CHCOs say. But one problem they solve in the current climate is how to compete with the private sector on pay and benefits in the most sought-after professions.

The report, like others before it, suggests using "nonmonetary incentives" such as increased responsibility to retain the most valued employees. But the report doesn't examine pay as an incentive, in light of the current budget situation. The goal of the report is to present the insights of federal human resources experts with an eye to planning "for how the government can begin to rebuild its battered workforce even within the reality of significant fiscal restraints."

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