Federal Talent: Connecting the Dots

June 7, 2016


In my last blog, I asked this question about federal recruiting: “Is it working?” In part one of this two-part blog series, we’ll stand back and take a look at the bigger talent picture, as well as some important considerations for reaching an ultimate solution for federal recruiting. And, we’ll highlight how to address some of the key federal hiring issues. With the vast array of best practices for building talent pools, sourcing highly qualified candidates, and hiring (and retaining) candidates, the systemic use of HR staff augmentation consultants to source and hire candidates for full-time positions is not really needed.


You’ve probably heard about the looming retirement wave for federal employees. In 2017, the largest percentage of federal employees will reach retirement eligibility as 31% (yep – that’s about one-third) of the federal workforce will be retirement eligible at that time. Juxtaposed against that is the population of Millennials entering the federal workforce. While you might think this percentage would be on the rise, unfortunately only about 7% of the federal workforce is currently 30 or younger — and the percentage has been on the decline. So, we have federal employees (many with mission critical skills and knowledge) leaving the workforce for retirement in a big wave, and filling that gap is the Millennial population entering the federal workforce in a small ripple. If the balance doesn’t change, the 2017 retirement wave will create an impact closer to a retirement tsunami!


Elevating the issue Federal recruiting and retention is by no means a new problem or challenge.   In 2001, the GAO (Government Accountability Office) identified human capital management, including the capacity to recruit and retain a workforce, as a government-wide high-risk area. Reports in subsequent years have continued to address this risk factor.


With this important issue in mind, numerous initiatives have focused on developing innovative approaches to recruiting and hiring. In 2004, the Partnership for Public Service launched The Extreme Hiring Makeover, piloting different approaches for hiring with three participating agencies: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Education (ED), and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). In 2010, there was a Presidential Memorandum titled “Improving the Federal Recruitment and Hiring Process”. Since then, OPM has introduced the Hiring Excellence campaign and roadshow to help agencies connect with top talent. Those programs just scratch the surface of all the federal recruitment and hiring initiatives launched over the years.


After more than 15 years of initiatives, studies, and demonstration pilots, it’s time to fix federal talent issues. Now is the time to bring top talent to the federal workforce, and finally delight hiring managers with the quality of their new hires.


5 Ideas to Resolve Federal Recruiting

and Talent Challenges


With no shortage of innovative solutions, tools and resources available to support federal recruitment and hiring initiatives, there has to be a way to link the “solutions” more closely to the “agencies in need”. Below are recommendations for making that a reality:

  1. Strategic view: Agencies must take the long term view by focusing on hiring beyond short term requirements, dealing with the retirement bubble, addressing Millennial workforce recruiting issues — and do so within the structure of federal hiring regulations, available hiring authorities, and veterans’ preference criteria. In addition, agencies must continue to consider costs of turnover, rehiring and training. This calls for developing agency-wide talent strategies.

  2. Do your homework: Now more than ever, it is important to develop an understanding of commercial best practices and successful federal agency best practices. Get to know the tools, resources and innovative strategies your internal or outsourced teams should be using.

  3. Drive innovation: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your HR team and look for contractor/consultant support to supplement existing recruiting and staffing capabilities. These resources can be invaluable for working with you to drive innovative processes as well as to pilot new tools and strategies.

  4. Partner with procurement/acquisition resources for best contracting results: When seeking contractor support, work closely with the acquisition team to identify best options for contracting. Explore performance-based contracting to focus on achieving specific outcomes.

  5. Understand long-term impact of short-term cost savings: Through procurement processes, contractors often interpret the selection criteria of best value to mean lowest price wins. This pushes contractors to leverage less experienced consultants to reach lower rate categories. For a federal agency with significant challenges around talent and recruiting, the missed opportunity may arise from selecting the low cost contractor in lieu of the small (or large) business that brings innovative thinking coupled with leading edge tools and technology for solving federal talent issues.

In the next blog, I’ll highlight a series of innovative recruiting tools and resources that have applicability in the federal sector. These will include some of the more common applications and tools available, such as video interviewing, a wide range of assessment applications, and even technology that uses artificial intelligence to find highly qualified new hires most likely to perform at a high level in your organization. Stay tuned for more!


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