Academic journal article The Public Manager

Competing for Talent in the Federal Government-Part I: Several Federal Agencies Are Streamlining Their Hiring and Recruiting Processes, Making Their Organizations "Employers of First Choice" for the Next Generation of Civil Servants

Academic journal article The Public Manager

Competing for Talent in the Federal Government-Part I: Several Federal Agencies Are Streamlining Their Hiring and Recruiting Processes, Making Their Organizations "Employers of First Choice" for the Next Generation of Civil Servants

Article excerpt

Federal government agencies face a colossal human capital challenge: how can they win the increasingly competitive war for talent? How can they streamline their hiring and recruitment processes to attract a new generation of workers to public service? And how can they become "employers of first choice" for more job seekers in the future?

Today, the stakes for agencies and government chief human capital officers (CHCOs) could not be higher. Just as baby boomers are poised to retire from government jobs in record numbers (half the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement by 2010), our government is ramping up to fight an increasingly sophisticated (and labor-intensive) war on terror--one that will require highly educated, specialized workers in record numbers. The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Homeland Security (DHS) are set to hire as many as 150,000 workers in the next few years to support an expanding array of defense and national security requirements, mostly in the areas of security, criminal investigation, law enforcement, and bioterrorism protection.

These numbers don't take into account other critical jobs to be filled in the more "shadowy" areas of government service, places like the National Security Agency, National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Data on their job requirements aren't publicly known, but these agencies, like their public counterparts (DoD and DHS), face staffing pressures of their own. In November 2004, President Bush signed an executive order requiring the CIA to increase staffing 50 percent in three critical areas: clandestine operations, intelligence analysis, and mission-critical languages. The number of job slots to be filled in each area is unknown, but could be 2,000 or more according to the Partnership for Public Service (PPS).

Defense and intelligence aren't the only areas where government needs to staff up in the years ahead. Potential talent shortages in the federal government's scientific and technical communities--in agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)--mean that staffing challenges will be an issue for many federal agencies for years to come.

Overhauling Hiring and Recruitment

As government struggles to fill its twenty-first century needs, "Its hiring and recruitment practices are in big need of an overhaul," says Jane Paradiso, a consultant on workforce planning issues to Watson Wyatt Worldwide. Government hiring practices, she says, are complex, impersonal, and bureaucratic. "Federal job applications can run thirty-five pages, and it's not unusual for some federal agencies to take more than a year to bring new hires onboard, especially in key defense and security areas." In one case, she worked with a federal agency whose average time to hire was 374 days. "Anybody who's good at what they do isn't going to wait around that long to get hired. They'll just go someplace else and probably for more money than they'd make in government."

Government agencies aren't in a position to offer the kinds of job flexibility, perks, and salaries that private-sector employers can offer, says Paradiso. Consulting firms, for example, "can hire retiring military personnel as contractors at salaries no agency can match. Meanwhile, high tech firms like Raytheon, IBM, Lockheed Martin, and others spend millions annually on high-powered recruiting to identify and acquire top scientific and engineering talent."

The federal government--with a few notable exceptions like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)--does little proactive recruiting and, because of poor agency branding, is seldom seen by new college graduates as an employer of choice says Bob Tobias, director of the Institute for Public Policy Implementation at American University and author of Successful Recruiting Strategies for Federal Agencies. …

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