White House looks to automation to improve federal workforce

Five percent of federal jobs could be completely automated, according to a White House workforce plan, and most jobs could benefit from some automation.

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Five percent of federal jobs could be completely automated, according to a White House workforce plan, and most jobs could benefit from some automation.

According to the Trump administration’s most recent workforce management update, 5 percent of occupations could be "automated entirely," and 60 percent could have at least 30 percent of their activities automated. The report states that 45 percent of "total work activities" could be automated governmentwide.

Overall, the administration is looking to improve performance management, retrain workers, redeploy human capital and simplify the hiring process.

The governmentwide performance goal of improving the workforce is being led by Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon, Department of Defense Chief Management Officer Jay Gibson and Office of Management and Budget Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management Peter Warren.

The update piggybacks on the President’s Management Agenda and lays out a series of milestones for agencies to hit over the next two fiscal years.

By the third quarter of fiscal year 2018, the administration is directing OPM, OMB and all major agency components to identify the units in the bottom 20 percent of the 2017 employee engagement index of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and target a 20 percent improvement in those units by the end of 2020.

The update also directs OPM and all agencies to identify the best ways to incentivize employee performance and recruit and retain top talent by the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018. The report notes survey data that suggests that only a minority of feds believe chronic poor performers are dealt with appropriately.

While most agencies have been trending upward in employee engagement overall, 17 of 24 agencies' survey respondents were less satisfied with their work unit’s ability to hire the right people in fiscal year 2017 than the previous year. Four other agencies’ ratings were unchanged.

Also by the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018, a team led by the General Services Administration is responsible for completing at least five assessments on low-performing work units.

By the first quarter of 2019, OPM and DOD are to identify the "most promising" policies and procedures to address poor employee performance.

The update also identifies a series challenges to achieving workforce modernization, calling the personnel system "a relic of an earlier era" and "unduly complex."

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