This week the Federal Times reported that federal hiring is now at its lowest level in almost 10 years, with just about every agency seeing drastic drops in new employees. The Times also reported that the federal government has shrunk by nearly 70,000 employees over the same time period, as more employees quit or retire.
A Challenge — But An Opportunity Too
The issue is large, with many underlying causes and contributing factors. Many changes – including large institutional ones – will have to take place across the board to address the problem. However, there are more immediate undertakings that can be made that will allow agencies to help their cause. In fact, forward-thinking agencies can use this budget-constrained period as an opportunity, as illogical as that may seem.
As an example, take a look at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Federal Times article reported that the DHS has seen its new hires fall from more than 14,000 in fiscal year 2009 to about 4,000 in fiscal year 2013 – a 75% drop, according to the Office of Personnel Management. Budget constraints mean that the DHS simply can’t hire permanent workers as much as in the past.
Temporary Hiring And Surges — Getting Analytical
One way it copes is through temporary hiring. The agency hires temporary employees to meet emergency needs such as disaster relief. But temporary hiring, like pretty much anything, is much less effective if done haphazardly and without some sense of foresight behind the process. Through the use of talent analytics, temporary hiring surges that agencies find themselves in can be much more effective than otherwise, and actually lead to better hires that have long term positive benefits to the agency.
Analytical tools can help provide insight to the talent pool, the recruitment process, retention, onboarding and training. Because timing is critical in these situations, the need for better hires and better talent is even more important than in the standard course of operations, and analytics can help an agency attract, find and retain better employees.
“Surge” does not need to be synonymous with careless or hasty.
Additional insight can be gained from analytics with regards to talent gaps – where the biggest gaps are and why they exist, so they gaps can be closed and shrunk in the future. Temporary hires today can be permanent employees tomorrow. Similarly, you can gain more insight on where your top talent comes from.
A smaller federal workforce appears to be the reality for the foreseeable future. That means managing the workforce in place, as well as the recruitment of what hiring is acceptable, are more important than ever. While there are major issues to be addressed over time, agencies can take action today, with the proper analytical tools, to manage talent in the best possible way, and improve their efficiency and talent pool at the same time.
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