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Government is Hiring! But Where?

While it may appear that the size of the federal workforce has shrunk to the size of a thumbtack, many agencies are still looking to hire bright candidates.

But the changing economy has forced management to alter their hiring process in favor of a more strategic one.

Hiring employees is no longer isolated as an HR function. Today, when budgets are tight and crafting an efficient team is essential, talent acquisition should be the responsibility of the leadership.

Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program about the changing climate in today’s federal workforce.

The dip in recent federal hiring is no surprise to Fox. He’s written numerous pieces on the landscape of federal employment and on recruiting patterns within government.

“There’s been a pretty significant drop in federal hiring as a result of all the trends that you might imagine; budget cuts, sequestration, and the overall growing fiscal pressure on Executive Branch agencies to shrink the federal workforce,” said Fox.

However, specialized skills like STEM workers, medical professionals, and recruitment of veterans have all seen an increase in employment.

In an effort to resemble the private workforce, more than 50% of new employees hired are under the age of 40. The percentage of federal employees under the age of 30 is about 7%. In contrast, the private sector is a little over a quarter.

“It’s our hope that we’ll see the government better match the private sector in the national workforce as a whole, so that we have a truly balanced federal workforce as well,” said Fox.

Fox states that while federal hiring doesn’t match nationwide workforce statistics, diversity is still a priority. He believes that the government already hires with a balance in mind, but there is still a ways to go.

“Generally, in terms of ethnicity, we do pretty well,” said Fox. “In terms of gender we could do a little bit better, where the women make up a majority of the workforce in nationwide statistics; in the government it’s slightly less than that. But we do a great job with hiring veterans, which is a real goal of this administration, of OPM, and of executive branch agencies to make sure that those who’ve served the country in a uniform can do so in civilian clothing as well.”

Fox notes that government agencies have the same needs to fill as the private sector. The job areas of growth are reflective of overall national and global trends within the agency.

“With a large returning population of veterans, VA is looking to hire the doctors, the nurses, and other medical talent needed to serve them effectively,” said Fox. “On the national security side, there are still many threats, so we see a lot of hiring on that front. And healthcare reform has created a real significant need for agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services to staff up to meet those needs.”

Fox advises leaders to be strategic and thoughtful in their hiring process.

“The real key for leaders, especially those who haven’t been doing much hiring, is to recognize that you need not simply follow the status quo; you need not simply do hiring the way it’s been done for the last 5, 10, 15, 20 years,” said Fox. Instead, leaders should focus on strategic planning so you’re prepared when the time comes.

Fox explains that your hiring process should be ongoing. If your recruiting process isn’t constant then you could be behind the 8-ball when you’re in need of new personnel. He offers tangible methods to improve your recruiting process.

“There are some real world practical steps leaders can take right now to do a better job. Get out there on college campuses if you’re looking to hire entry-level folks. Spend some time in professional associations if you’re looking for more experienced folks, particularly folks with specialized skillsets. You need to get out there, even if you’re not actively hiring, just so they know you’re out there,” said Fox.

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