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If you’re a human capital leader in the U.S. Government, you already know this: you’ve got your work cut out for you.
At one of our recent roundtables with the Partnership for Public Service, Reginald F. Wells, keynote speaker and former Social Security Administration Human Resources and Chief Human Capital Officer, put it this way:
“Government faces many challenges—budget cuts, shrinking workforces, pay freezes, increasing workloads and negative rhetoric about federal employees. Without proper attention to our employees, we will be hard-pressed to weather the turbulence successfully.”
The Administration recently asserted its priorities on the subject in the first-ever Quadrennial Federal Workforce Priorities Report, and workforce strategy is a growing focus for agencies. But when we talk with government leaders, many say they don’t feel as prepared as they’d like to be and are now trying to more proactively plan and prepare for their future workforce needs.
Within the context of broader government transformation, here are three ways we’re seeing human capital leaders obtain and retain key talent, and meet their agency’s mission.
With talent shortages for many high-demand jobs, the government must compete with the private sector to pull in the top candidates. That’s caused agencies to start thinking differently about how they identify appropriate skillsets. When recruiting for cyber jobs, for example, some agencies are using gamification and hackathons as ways to see candidates put their skills on display.
For certain in-demand positions, agencies like the departments of Agriculture and Treasury are leveraging their existing flexibilities to offer pay incentives so they can better compete with the private sector. (Watch our experts discuss federal recruitment strategies with the Partnership for Public Service.)
The Office of Personnel Management and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council have identified government-wide skill gaps in four critical areas: STEM, cybersecurity, acquisition, and human resources. To fill those gaps, agencies should first focus on upskilling current employees, and relocating those displaced by reorganization efforts. For functions like cybersecurity, where skill requirements change at a rapid pace, this upskilling and development should happen quite regularly. Where possible, to get the best results from your training, put employees in a live environment where they can navigate a set of real scenarios.
Innovation is about bringing together diverse thinking from across an organization to solve big market, mission, and global challenges. This is often accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or business models.
Many private sector companies have large innovation groups. We’ve helped our federal clients follow suit on a different scale. When they start with “small” innovations, they learn quickly what a large impact they can have.
We brought clients from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to Booz Allen’s innovation center in downtown Washington, DC, and they saw what a vital part it plays in our strategy. They stood up their own pockets of innovation at CMS, and they’ve continued to grow and show results.
Whatever your strategic vision is, stay agile. It’s not only possible to make long-term plans that account for serious uncertainty—it’s imperative.
As you craft your agency’s human capital plan for the next 3 to 5 years, do so with the understanding that change is continuous, that you will always need to adjust along the way. Most importantly, keep your talent informed on your progress, and encourage them to engage and provide feedback.
The Federal Government’s 2.1 million civilian employees are one of the world’s largest workforces. They should see that they’re part of the journey, that change is happening with them and not to them.
What separates successful federal agency change efforts from those that fail? Working with Harvard University Professor of Public Management Steven Kelman, we identified techniques that successful leaders consistently employ. Together, these best practices are a valuable guide for agency leaders navigating today’s federal landscape. Download the report