The nature of federal work is changing, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) wants to ensure that agencies can adequately equip federal workers to adapt. New work requirements created by emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), are forcing agencies to rethink how they keep employees current.
There are various paths agencies can choose to keep pace with these growing demands, two of which OPM highlights in its toolkit. The first option is reskilling, which involves learning a completely new skillset based on a demonstrated aptitude. The second is upskilling, which allows individuals to be trained within the same field, but in a new way that adapts to the reality of automated tasks, among other new capabilities that technologies like AI provide.
OPM released a Reskilling Toolkit on May 22 that addresses reskilling and upskilling from the perspective of all of the key stakeholders involved, including agency leaders, managers and employees. The toolkit addresses how change affects the employee emotionally and offers helpful guidance on communicating change and dealing with the varied responses that change elicits.
For example, the toolkit urges agency leadership to anticipate and allow for strong emotions from employees, and recognize that “emotions are not only natural, but also a necessary part of the change and transition process.”
Change can lead naturally to fear. The way to counter this, according to the toolkit, is to increase information flow and make sure employees know where they will end up. Keeping familiar aspects of the workday and organization in place should help create a semblance of stability that employees can lean on as they adjust to change.
HR professionals, managers, and employees can utilize the toolkit as they shape reskilling and upskilling opportunities rooted in the unique strengths each employee has to offer. The toolkit specifically emphasizes planning as key to an effective program. HR professionals should evaluate the skills of the current workforce, create specifications for what they want the future workforce to look like, and identify gaps in staffing and skills that limit the agency from reaching the workforce they need.
After planning comes implementation and then evaluation of the training program. This final step holds agency leaders and managers accountable for progress, or lack thereof, and provides a point of reference for future planning and decision-making within the agency. Employees are given the opportunity to monitor their accomplishments throughout their training and communicate with their supervisor about any needed modifications to their reskilling or upskilling plan.
As reskilling and upskilling become more common as agencies strive to modernize, employees and leaders should be aware of the tools they have to facilitate change. This toolkit is one of three Accelerating the Gears of Transformation tools that OPM released to support the President’s Management Agenda’s Cross-Agency Priority Goal on Developing a Workforce for the 21stCentury.