“It’s not about making them stay in one agency – it’s about making them stay in government.”
Human Resources used to be a transactional piece of business operations – basically about processing paper. Today, great human capital shops are strategic partners. It’s a much more complicated process and certainly a puzzle or balancing act within national security.
The Federal News Network held a conference this week with the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) for this US General Services Administration (GSA) to discuss some of the challenges and accomplishments the organization has had with federal hiring.
Traci DiMartini leads the Office of Human Resources Management and manages all HR support activities for the agency’s 12,000 employees. Her team of 300 at GSA take care of more than hiring: they manage all HR activities, employee relations, support payroll, manage benefits, and more.
She was excited to brag about her team of Human Capital Specialists – but understands there is still much more to do when it comes to hiring for the federal government, which she calls the most essential piece of civil service.
HIRING WITH THE TIMES
How do we hire differently? How do we train best employees? With personnel spread across the U.S., GSA has seen their productivity levels rise off the charts since the start of the pandemic – people are staying engaged and remaining at their specific agency.
It goes to show that the private sector was on to something (and even some employees in the DoD who were able) with allowing individuals to work 2-3 days from home throughout the week.
Remote work seems to be an added benefit and incentive for candidates in your cleared hiring. Traci notes, “Let’s be honest, we’re not going back 5 days week. Agencies that rolled back telework had a hard time to get their employees motivated and productive afterwards.”
Telework is also an added benefit for professional development and training: we can embrace tech and do things differently, and with training becoming virtual, it is more accessible and readily available to everyone, including the GSA workforce.
TACKLING THE PROBLEMS
Attracting and retaining talent is not just a problem for industry; keeping the best possible employees seems to be a battle for government, too, with a gap between the skills an agency needs at that moment, and what skills applicants possess. Essentially, the timeline of acquiring in-demand skills is slowing.
Re-skilling or upskilling comes from a change in mindset of the federal government – gone are the days you do one job for the next 30 years. But this requires constant training, which is usually one of the first things to go during budget cuts.
But at GSA the mindset is progressive – they are willing to focus on training managers and investing in the federal employee.
THE HIRING PROCESS: IT’S A VOLUME ISSUE
While the government is slow to take on new tools, Traci claims the lengthy hiring process of obtaining a career with the government is not the problem they perceive it to be – the system is not broken, but the 80 day hiring period is actually a product of their success.
In the month of September 2020 alone, GSA posted 1300 jobs and had over 66,000 applications, only hiring 2% of the folks that applied – that’s 98% of applicants thinking the system is broken. It’s a volume issue that human capital offices are not equipped to deal with.
To tackle this issue, Traci says that recruiting teams should invest in better candidate assessments so unqualified candidates will not make it too far in the hiring process. She also admits that the government can fine-tune job descriptions, so candidates fully understand what they are applying to.
PEOPLE ARE THE ESSENCE OF GOVERNMENT
As a CHCO or Chief Learning Officer (CLO), you are involved in every decision that impacts the government – because it’s dealing with hiring people. My favorite quote from Traci? “Everyone thinks they can do HR until they try to.” Which I’m sure rings true for many of the HR and recruiting personnel reading this.
She is responsible for GSA-wide policy and oversight of all aspects of Human Capital Management including talent acquisition, development and sustainment, labor and employee relations, performance management, compensation, strategic workforce and succession planning, executive resources, diversity management and data analytics.