Ed Powell

Much intellectual and physical effort has been expended in the last two administrations and 16 years to provide greater transparency of the federal Human Resources Lifecycle Process and to enable the creation of better linkages between human capital strategies and organizational mission, values, goals and objectives. President Obama provided greater focus and added impetus to those same objectives in this administration’s statement of near term goals.
This fact that this “policy” has had such great continuity is not a tribute to good politics; instead, it is due to the recognition that good HR can have a profound impact in creating good government.
Beginning with Clinton’s National Performance (NPR) review and, later, Bush’s President’s Management Agenda (PMA), the overall HR process has been mapped and analyzed, and very detailed and truly valuable specifications have been developed. The structure and guidance provided in the most recent publication of these process details is called the Human Resources Line of Business (HRLOB).
One important need that HRLOB addresses is the creation of that long sought HR process transparency. The details in the HRLOB publications provide a common framework of guidance to government agencies and industry, as they jointly devise the means, methods and technologies for harmonizing agency needs and goals with HR strategies and for improving, simplifying and speeding up this vitally important back-office activity.
The current incarnation of USAJOBS is an outgrowth of this effort, as it was created to simplify the process of locating and applying for federal jobs. Contracted out early in the HRLOB effort as part of the Recruitment One-Stop initiative, the new USAJOBS was to serve as the federal government’s” official one-stop-source for jobs and employment information.”
From an “attraction” standpoint, by most measures, the USAJOBS effort has been successful. Under the USAJOBS umbrella, most competitive service federal government jobs in the Executive Branch are accessible via this single OPM website which has become the 5th most visited job site on the entire World Wide Web!
USAJOBS has achieved this tremendous visibility without the HUGE investment in marketing, advertising, promotion, search-engine-optimization and other techniques that is typically required to achieve such high visitation. There is clearly great interest in federal employment and taxpayers are willing to invest time and effort in seeking out federal employment information.
However, from a “recruitment” standpoint, much remains to be accomplished. For example,
• The promise of a “create once, use many” basic job resume that could be used to apply for jobs has not been realized, largely because of an incomplete integration of USAJOBS and agency hiring and end-to-end processes.
• While there have been improvements in the jobs announcement process, in particular the tab-based announcement format, job particulars are all too often mired in fed-speak jargon and obscured in acronyms and the goal of “clean, concise, understandable and attractive job announcements” has not been achieved.
• While “improved job searching” has been provided in USAJOBS, feedback from citizens and well as surveys and empirical research the Partnership for Public Service and others has exposed a lack of full goal accomplishment in providing a “job search routine that is clear, easy to use, and helps job seekers identify jobs that match both their skills and interests.”
• It is well documented that the current mechanisms work best when the job seeker has knowledge of federal agency and federal job and occupational structures, a command of knowledge that is rare outside of the federal government. USAJOBS is the logical gateway for making such data freely available to job seekers, including agency branded pages/sites presenting the agency “talent brand” and new searchable resource pages for occupational research.
• Another goal of Recruitment-One-Stop and USAJOBS was “online, real-time application status tracking” but a lack of adequate job seeker notification is a known and long-standing problem. While HR staff shortages have often been blamed for job seeker notification issues, a lack of both hiring agency and regulator attention in making such notification a priority has contributed to the problem. Even those agencies with hiring management systems that enabled automated seeker notifications were not making full use of those capabilities. (OPM moved to resolve this problem by making full seeker notification a top priority.)
From a “hiring” standpoint, USAJOBS has also come up short in its goal to “assist Federal agencies in hiring top talent in a competitive marketplace.”
The government agency and employment information available via USAJOBS is inadequate in that hiring top talent in a competitive marketplace requires the creation of a compelling value proposition for talent and making such information freely available to talent pools.
It is important to recognize that the attraction, recruitment, hiring process is, essentially establishing a “buying transaction” with citizens. Job seekers:
• have choice between and among jobs in government agencies and industry,
• research alternatives using available information,
• are not a uniform or homogeneous population with the same needs and requirements,
• make job decisions based upon “best value,” which could include agency culture or mission; most interesting job assignment; job location, work schedule and other quality of life considerations; perceived job stability; salary, benefits or promotion potential; etc.
The best response to that understanding is for agencies to consider hiring as a “selling transaction” requiring market research, packaging, branding, marketing and closing, including segmentation and differentiation messaging that communicates across all of the targeted segments of the multi-generational workforce.
Agencies need to address this demand for agency-specific information and “branding,” possibly including different landing pages for different demographics so that messaging can be properly tailored to the different populations (students, mid-career, core occupational specialty, executive.)
USAJOBS does not provide ready access to up-to-date talent acquisition advice, guidance and best-practice outreach tools that could promote agency brands and locate hard to reach populations.
Step 1 in any competitive buying-selling transaction is reaching out to the potential customers. While announcing a job on USAJOBS provides great visibility to “active” job seekers who have time and effort to expend in looking for a job on a daily/weekly/biweekly basis, it lacks the outreach capabilities to locate “poised” (infrequent seeker) or “passive” (rare seeker) populations that comprise the bulk of workforce, including the highly desirable “top talent” in the diversity, mid-career and executive ranks. Reaching these populations requires outreach where top talent visits and congregates, like:
• professional associations,
• niche interest-based affinity sites,
• social networks,
• other professional profile and resume data bases and
• content sites enabled with behavioral marketing.