The HR Paradigm Shift and the Federal Human Capital Opportunity. (Human Resources Management)

Article excerpt

The director of the office of personnel management (OPM) shares her views on solutions for improving the federal government's ability to attract and retain top talent.

Prior to the tragedy of September 11, those in government were presented with a unique opportunity to reform the federal pay system and the rules under which it operates. Consensus on the need to reform exists among the administration, Congress, the General Accounting Office, and multiple stakeholders including unions and professional organizations. Since the events of September 11 and our nation's initiation of the war on terror, the challenge and the opportunity are that much greater. In this time of unparalleled national challenges, Americans are increasingly looking to their government for guidance.

The only way government can produce the results the president has asked for--the results that the American people want and deserve--is through the people who are in government. Steve Case, chairman of AOL Time Warner, once said: "Vision without execution is called hallucination." Government can have the best vision statement in the world, but if it does not execute it well and produce results, then government is just hallucinating.

Therefore, focusing on how to get the right people in place to pull everything together and execute plans of action needs to be a top priority.

Paradigm Shift in Human Resources

In meeting with the President's Management Council, cabinet secretaries and their deputies, and human resources (HR) professionals, I strive to make everyone aware of the paradigm shift that has occurred in HR.

Government is more than a decade behind the corporate world in many sectors, especially HR. The consequences, if this problem is not addressed, will be quite serious. Government must change its concept of human resources people and what they have to offer in order to operate effectively in the marketplace.

Long ago, the term "personnel bunny" was used to describe a young clerk or secretary in an office--almost always a woman--who would fill out applications and answer questions on benefits in her spare time. That was then-personnel as an afterthought.

As the company grew, the "personnel bunny" became a personnel director, but the skill set did not change significantly. This involved being able to fill out more forms, administer benefits, and answer more employees' questions. Beyond those tasks, management did not utilize HR people as a resource. Generally, meetings involving strategic planning, budgeting, and the direction of the company did not include HR personnel.

A New Profession

Today, that paradigm is no longer valid, especially in the most dynamic and successful corporations. This is the fundamental paradigm shift. A new profession has developed--human resources professionals--who help their employers strategically manage their workforce.

Corporate titans like Sears, IBM, Federal Express, and Xerox no longer fill their HR departments with paper pushers who process applications and forms, who speak only when spoken to, and who stay out of the way of the strategic thinkers and planners of corporate America. They are now hiring professionals who are involved at the executive level, in the boardroom, in all aspects of corporate decision making.

These modernized HR departments help their corporate executives determine future workforce needs with strategic planning and competitive analysis and provide a firm foundation and a business case for workforce recruitment, retention, compensation, and employee training programs. Corporations have learned that looking at human capital as an asset to be invested in and managed strategically rather than as a cost of doing business provides them with the competitive edge.

Government needs to recognize that corporations are not just competing with one another for workers, they are also competing with government. …