If you were John Berry, how would you fix Federal hiring?

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This topic contains 18 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 11 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #96965

    I was just reading an article by Alyssa Rosenberg on GovExec (“Report calls compromise cornerstone to hiring reform”) and it got me thinking, if I were John Berry, what would I make my Top 3 priorities to fix Federal hiring?


    1. Streamline the application process.
    2. Continue to refine USAJobs.gov
    3. Emphasize internship programs
    What would you add? How would you fix Federal hiring?
  • #97001

    Steve Ressler

    1 – Take inventory of successes and internal programs. Do better job of promoting current great programs and model them
    2 – Create flagship program such as Teach for America
    3 – Make easier for gov’t employees to change jobs across feds and state/local

  • #96999

    I would:

    1 – Standardize the resume-only application process so that all agencies use one common resume.
    2 – Use social media to reach “passive” applicants in specialized areas.
    3 – Establish a centralized Federal intern program for undergraduates modeled after the successful PMF program for graduate degree candidates.

  • #96997

    Christopher Dorobek

    Some additional data points — Federal News Radio 1500 AM all week is doing a special series — HR: Reinvented — and we are talking to a wide range of people about this issues that OPM, the Obama administration and government face.

    As part of that, Federal News Radio conducted a survey of feds — and the results are quite interesting. Essentially, people are very cynical about reforms — essentially, been there and haven’t done anything of value.

    Federal News Radio found that 47 percent of the 385 respondents say they are not optimistic about OPM’s efforts to reform the federal HR processes. About 8 percent say they are very optimistic and 35 percent say they are somewhat optimistic.

    These findings are not scientific, of course, but… they don’t really surprise me either.

    Related but unrelated: If you’re thinking about these issues, I would highly recommend the book DRIVE by Daniel Pink. We featured it recently on the Federal News Radio Book Club, where we got to talk to the author — and GovLoop’s Steve Ressler joined the discussion. You can read more and hear the Federal News Radio Book Club discussion here.

  • #96995

    Richard Schrader

    Start using today’s technology to solve today’s streamlining problem. I would bring in the Appian HR Hiring application to manage the processes.

  • #96993

    Dennis Edward Byrne
  • #96991

    Karol Taylor

    I think Berry is doing a great job of addressing hiring issues to the best of his authority. Since each federal agency has been delegated OPM’s hiring authority, Berry only has influence, over the hiring decisions they make, not power. Additionally, any changes to 5 CFR will have to be passed by Congress (we know how well they collaborate…).

    OPM’s hiring information in their 5 year strategic plan is to reform the Federal hiring process by: 1) Promoting innovative and coordinated approaches to recruiting and hiring students, mid-career professionals, and retirees to meet agency talent needs; 2) Streamlining the end-to-end hiring process to create a positive experience for applicants, managers, and HR specialists; 3) Increasing manager engagement in the hiring process; 4) Improving USAJOBS and integrating other components of the on-line hiring system to create a world-class experience for job seekers and agency recruiters; 5) Providing targeted direction on Federal hiring to HR officials; and 6) Promoting efficiency and effectiveness in hiring practices and processes compliant with merit principles.

    Please notice that the End-to-End Hiring Initiative (http://www.opm.gov/publications/EndToEnd-HiringInitiative.pdf) referred to above includes provisions for essay writing (also known as KSAs) so the feds are still using essays as possible assessments for determining the best qualified candidate. They may be placed in a different place in the process, i.e. having applicants write them after their resume has been reviewed, but they are KSAs, nonetheless.

    My top three issues are:
    1. Pass the 2010 budget so the Senior Corps (a flagship program) can receive funding.
    2. Pass the 2010 budget so the extra hiring that was allocated in it takes place.
    3. Pass the 2010 budget. I don’t know why we are worrying about the freezes proposed in the 2011 budget, when the 2010 budget has not yet been passed.

  • #96989

    Peter Sperry

    I’ve been on both sides of this issue. One of my most discourgaing moments in government was as a Schedule C appointee trying to establish good relations between my Senate confirmed boss and the career staff. Some of the feedback I recieved to my face was: “public policy should not change just because there has been an election”, “we outlasted your predecessor, we’ll outlast you”, and “you need us more than we need you”. Going on behind my back, but not hard to figure out, were the career staff who were leaking sensitive discussions to outside special interest groups, including one who had the opposing party’s press office on speed dial.

    Ironically, the most helpful career staff, who I came to value highly, were several Ramspecked employees from the opposing party who had burrowed in under the previous administration. While they strongly disagreed with the new administrations policies, they also deeply believed that elections do have consequences and the role of career staff should be to do everything possible to assist politicals in being successful even if they fully intended to vote against them in the next election. These people set the standard for me of what a dedicted government employees should be regardless of whether they were appointed or career. Today, I am career myself and do my best to emulate their example.

    I absolutely believe good career staff are the heart and sole of an effective government orgainization, as long as they are willing to set aside personal or political agendas and dedicate themselves to making each new administration as successful as possible. I also believe appointees are equally critical to that success. They are (or should be) the ones who articulate and clarify the administration’s agenda, identify the measurements to determine if the agenda is succeeding and take responsibility at the ballot box if it fails.

    The role of junior politicals (Schedule Cs) to experienced career staff should be like 2nd liutenants and senior NCOs. Yes they are wet behind the ears and often overcompensate but a good seargant helps them become effective leaders so when they come back as Field Grade or General officers (Senate confirmed appointees or elected officials) they are a true asset rather than a hinderence.

    If the politicals you deal with are inexperienced, what do you do to bring them up to speed? Do you seek to understand each new administration’s priorities or fall back on “this is the way it is, always has been and always will be”? Can your politicals trust you to implent the new adminstration’s agenda even if you feel it is misguided? Can they know that confidential off the record discussions will remain confidential?

    Frankly, the expanding role of politicals under all administrations has been driven by negative answers to these questions. At a certain point, Presidents, Cabinet Secretaries and Senate confirmed appointees, measured in the unforgiving glare of the modern media, want to be surrounded by people they trust. That was the reason I was given a Schedule C position. And my pledge now that I am career is to support the current adminstrations agenda 100% at work and not undermine or oppose any portion of it related to my agency when not at work. I reserve the right to make my own judgement on issues unrelated to my agency, vote how I please and volunteer for candidates I respect but when I am on the clock, my heart and soul belongs to the administration. When your politicals can confidently say the same about you, they may become easier to work with.

  • #96987

    David Chambers

    Why not do what every company does? Have a recruiter go out and seek the best candidates.

    The government could let a contract to a recruiting company or companies. When a job vacancy becomes available, the recruiter can search for the best candidates. This is very effective in the private sector. It is fast and cost effective.

    This would eliminate a lot of problems. For example, if there is an internal candidate, they could than have to justify why this person is the best. I believe in promoting from within. This would eliminate the charade of having fodder candidates. That is having a preselected candidate that you will hire and having other candidates apply (who are rejected) so we can say we have picked the best candidate.

  • #96985

    Jeremy R Cook

    Eliminate the arcane requirement for certain key words in a resume. Rumors have it that certain agencies (eg, Army Corps) filter out applicants who don’t have specific key words in their resume or somewhere in their application. A horrible [and incredibly lazy] way to go about hiring, in my opinion.

  • #96983

    Jeffrey Press

    In my opinion, the best article ever written on this topic and how to change our government culture through hiring reform is called “The Doorway to Your Culture: Your hiring process may be what’s keeping your agency from achieving change.”

    Everything I would have said on this topic is included in this article. I just can’t say it any better.


  • #96981

    Federal News Radio

    Just to add to what Chris already said, you can check out the raw results of the Federal News Radio HR survey here. http://www.federalnewsradio.com/docs/WFED_HR_survey.pdf

  • #96979

    Eric Melton

    As I like to say, why recreate the wheel, when there are wheels for sale?
    I would implement a single centralized, standardized automated talent management tool.
    There are several out there, and they even integrate training, career roadmaps, performance appraisals, and more. Here are two such examples:

    ciao, Eric

  • #96977

    Joshua joseph

    I like your big 3 and many of the other suggestions here. Streamlining the application process matters because top talent has lots of options. So even though federal agencies typically have no shortage of applicants to choose from, the longer it takes the less likely that the “best” folks will still be available when the hiring decision is made.

    It’s surprising that no one has mentioned the assessment process…which is really the make or break for finding the right applicant/job fit. If agencies use weak assessment tools…and many do, they are basically rolling the dice in hiring. When you add that up across many hires, agencies can be putting mission goals at risk. The solution isn’t just to automate the process…technology can be a great help if used right, but if it’s not, all you’ve done is pave the cowpath. In many cases, major improvements can be made just by asking better questions on the job application form and insuring that the interview process is rigorous and structured, rather than off-the-cuff and ad-hoc.

  • #96975

    Rita Wojciechowski

    I strongly agree with your statement to emphasize internship programs because as a new master degree graduate I feel that an internship would be very helpful in understanding the day to day expectations, and should also be rewarding to the trainer knowing that he/she helped the coordination and training to qualify an employee to become a confident worker. It is like the trainer has voted for a person that he/she knows will get the job done.

  • #96973

    William Aquaviva

    1. Use resumes and interviews instead of dozens of questions asking about your qualifications for the position; the process turns off many candidates.
    2. Stop the loopholes so positions aren’t earmarked for someone regardless of the candidates and the process.
    3. Narrow the salary ranges to avoid wasting time for a position that goes from $79K – $123K so you apply and find out at offer time it’s for the low $79K and you can’t take it.

  • #96971

    Ed Powell

    Reform the civil service by making employment “at will.”

  • #96969

    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.

  • #96967

    Marco Morales

    Re-design the USAJobs resume submitting process so that it is a one-stop Web site for any federal job. Many times, after applying for any number of positions across government agencies, I have been re-routed to some other Web-based process which prompts me to re-register/provide more “user IDs” and “passwords”. I must have at least 10 some such IDs and passwords that entities demand before being able to be considered for announced jobs. It is very cumbersome and is patterned after the typical bureaucracy and red tape processes associated with big government. It’s a wonder we (the federal government) ever make any progress in the hiring-of-new-employees process. I’ve gotten used to it but can’t imagine how someone who is not familiar with big government could tolerate it for too long. Something’s gotta give …

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