Outsourcing at OPM
September 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm #80501
From the Washington Post
Help Wanted: Personnel Managers for Personnel Managers
By Joe Davidson
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
From the physician-heal-thyself department:
The Office of Personnel Management needs help managing its personnel.
It is seeking an outside contractor to provide personnel services at its headquarters.
"The Talent Service Group is responsible for providing high quality human resource services and products that help recruit and retain the best talent for the Office of Personnel Management," says the "solicitation for commercial services." "Due to a recent increase in workload and staff turnover [that] has created a manpower shortage, the Talent Service Group needs to obtain contractor human resources support services."
This comes at a time when the White House is trying to rein in spending for outside contractors, and OPM Director John Berry and Congress are pushing for reform of the government's hiring process. The OPM developed a streamlined hiring plan during the Bush administration, but agencies largely ignored it. Now, the Office of Management and Budget is riding shotgun with the OPM, and together the two White House offices are making hiring reform a priority.
But that job apparently is so big, the OPM needs help doing it.
Companies were told to submit their bids by 10 a.m. last Thursday. The list of services to be provided is so extensive that it makes you wonder what will be left for OPM employees to do. According to the solicitation, the contractor will be required to:
-- "Provide comprehensive staffing and placement services covering a variety of occupations/series/grade levels . . . in both the competitive and excepted services."
-- "Provide staffing case work and management advisory services . . . from recruitment through the final selection and closing out the case file."
-- "Perform staffing/placement duties including conducting job analysis, preparing vacancy announcements, determining appropriate rating and ranking selective factors, and . . . assess job qualifications for a wide range of positions in the competitive and excepted service."
-- "Post vacancy announcements . . . evaluates candidates, prepares referral lists or certificate(s) of eligibles (both merit promotion and competitive examining)."
-- "Identify and propose recruitment strategies in order to attract a high quality, diverse pool of candidates."
-- "Identify and recommend special recruiting authorities or programs . . . that may facilitate hiring of highly qualified candidates."
It's not clear how many outside workers are needed to do all this work. The OPM document says the services are for 40 hours a week, which is about the equivalent of one person, but there's also a section that talks about "these personnel."
Mark Reinhold, an OPM deputy associate director, said he could recall only one other time in the past decade that the agency offered such a contract. Giving the HR work to outsiders is necessary now, he said, because the OPM doesn't have the staff to do the job.
"This solicitation is for temporary onsite support to provide routine operational (i.e., not strategic/consultative) HR services," he said in a statement.
"Like most agencies, we have a good amount of turnover in positions in these functional areas, and we occasionally have a need for 'surge' capacity to meet demands of periods of high activity."
Yet the OPM's contracting out comes at a time when the Obama administration and Congress are working to bring jobs back inside that the Bush administration farmed out. The OMB has instructed agencies to reduce spending on outside contractors by 3.5 percent in each of the next two years. The White House wants to save $40 billion annually through improved acquisition practices.
In one memo, OMB Director Peter Orszag told department and agency heads to determine whether contractors are "being used to fulfill responsibilities that are inherently governmental."
Certainly, the HR function could be considered inherently governmental.
The OPM's contracting out is indicative of an agency that has lost its "capability not only to service their own organization, but also to set policy and conduct oversight of other agencies' human capital programs," said Linda Rix, co-chief executive of Avue Technologies. "I consider it a very serious problem." Avue is a government contractor, supplying computer operating systems for agency HR activities.
But Rix said her company believes that the type of work the OPM seeks to farm out should be done by federal employees because giving that assignment to consultants "weakens the alignment between HR operations and the mission of the agency. And that could lead to a mismatched workforce."
Without a strong internal human resources operation, as Rix points out, agencies risk getting a workforce that doesn't understand the mission of the agency. And what could be more fundamental to the Office of Personnel Management's mission than managing its own personnel?
The OPM's solicitation for an outside contractor can be found with this column
© 2009 The Washington Post Company
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