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How To Manage Talent in Federal Agencies

The demographic of government is rapidly changing, as the Baby Boomer’s near retirement federal agencies need to continue to execute their strategies around human capital. One key area of human capital is recruiting and cultivating talent, which is a critical part of retaining the most innovative and talented employees within the federal government. Talent management involves a thorough analysis within the agency. In particular, agencies need to identify and match the skills needed to accomplish the agencies’ most critical objectives.

Agencies can start the talent management process by identifying the most critical projects, the skills needed to meet desired goals, identify strategies to acquire the right talent, and then move to grow talented employees. All along the way, the agency is tasked with keeping employees motivated and challenged. With competition coming from the private and non-profit sector, managing talent is no easy task for agencies. By developing a smart human capital plan, agencies can keep their most talented individuals around and not see a brain drain to seemingly greener pastures.

I thought of a few ideas below that will aide agencies in their talent management strategies, and would love to hear what agencies have done.

1 – Provide Trainings & Professional Development Resources
2 – Provide Work that Impacts Professional Growth
3 – High Level and Engaging Projects
4 – Work Connects People, Allows them to Grow their Network
5 – Working in a Challenging & Stimulating Environment
6 – Provide Access to Mentors
7 – Quickly Provide Opportunities for Leadership
8 – Pay Attention that Employees are the Right Cultural Fit
9 – Sympathetic to Work/Life Balance
10 – Open & Honest Two-Way Communication

There are a lot of different ways to approach talent management. Again, I’d love to hear what strategies you have used and what has worked in your agency. What also seems apparent to me is that talent is a two-way street. The employee needs to be willing to grow and learn, even when things aren’t perfect and work is tough. Everyone needs to attach themselves to the organization, its’ mission and make a commitment to the team – in the end by making a commitment to the agency, all professional, personal and organizational goals can all be met.

Content of this post is brought to you by the GovLoop HR Council. The mission of the Human Resource Council is to share with you with the information, resources and services available to you to improve government from industry leaders. Visit the GovLoop HR Council to learn more.

What are some of the strategies you have used to keep talent? What are some of the challenges today to keep talent in the federal government?

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

Nice List Pat! I like the fact that you didn’t mention paying them more, but emphasized the nature of the work assignments. I keep thinking about Dan Pink’s three motivators – autonomy, mastery, and purpose. We have tried retention bonuses or paying reemployed annuitants to come back. Neither approach works in the long-term. Money is not the primary consideration for good performers. If it were, how can you explain all the volunteers and those working in non-profits? It is only a short-term solution that is often resented by the other employees because it is reserved for the “special” cases. It is also not sustainable.

Pat Fiorenza

Thanks Terry! Interesting to hear how retention bonuses didn’t work long term. You obviously need to compensate talented employees at the right value, and top performers probably have a good measure of what they should be earning. I know a lot of my peers looked at their first job more like an investment, get and build up good skills – knowing that the money is down the road. It’s not to say that being financially driven is a bad thing, but to keep good performers you need to a whole lot more than just cut them a big check.

Kanika Tolver

I really like this post. I think the Federal government has a hard time keeping good talent, because some agencies do not allow the employees to be creative and innovative. GSA seems like they really enjoy a creative and talented workplace. Leaders need to adopt transparent and collaborative approach to managing their employees.