The Big Bang Theory is the most popular comedy on television. More than 20 million people each week sit down to watch Sheldon Cooper and his group of brainiacs search for answers to life’s most challenging puzzles. Those big brains are just what the government needs to stay on the front lines of research and innovation.
But how do you recruit the brains to the federal workforce? Ron Sanders is a Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton. He and the Partnership for Public Service developed a new report, “The Biggest Bang Theory, How to get the most out of the competitive search for STEMM talent.” STEMM stands for science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical.
30% of all federal jobs are STEMM related.
Sanders told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that attracting the best and the brightest to government is only getting more challenging.
Why Two M’s in STEMM?
“That was our own construct. We took a little liberty with the classic acronym in part because we are drawing from the same talent pool. If you look at undergraduate majors the folks that go into the medical profession are the same folks who have the choice to go into the sciences and engineering arenas,” said Sanders.
Get ‘Em While They’re Young
“One of the keys to success is to recruit STEMM students before they’ve made the official decision to which field they will go into. You don’t want to limit what is already a constrained talent pool,” said Sanders.
Competition for the top talent
“You ask any federal CHCO and they will tell you the hardest sell is for the talent that is in the highest demand and that’s STEMM hires. The supply side looks like this: the number of people getting degrees in the STEMM disciplines is at best flat and yet the demand has a very steep positive slope. That leads to the obvious conclusion that if demand is outstripping supply we are going to be in a fight for that top talent,” said Sanders.
Money Is NOT the key Driver?
“The budget constraints are in some ways an advantage for government. Let’s be candid the federal government’s employment brand these days is a bit tarnished. But one of the things we’ve learned in doing the report is that the bad brand is much less relevant to STEMM talent. They care about the agency’s specific mission and the shinny toys that agencies let STEMM talent put their hands on. You have to use the mission as a magnet, if it is properly leveraged salaries become far less relevant,” said Sanders.
Don’t Get Rid of Scholarships
“I love the idea of scholarships. A number of agencies have gone to the Hill and cut their own deal for scholarship authority. But there are many STEMM employers that don’t have the ability. We also know that absent a scholarship students are going to graduate from college heavily in debt. There has been some noise about eliminating or limiting scholarships. That would be a huge blow because it is a powerful recruitment tool. Agencies have got to be able to at least offer tuition loan repayment as in incentive if we expect to compete,” said Sanders.
Send out the Sheldon Coopers
“The bottom line is that HR folks don’t speak the language. If you send me out to recruit a cyber expert or a biologist or a rocket scientist and they start asking me questions about the technology, I have no idea. All I can tell them is about the GS schedule, and that’s not helpful. You need classic peer to peer recruiting, so the people who are currently in the field can excite the new recruits. It creates an infectious energy,” said Sanders.
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