The Intelligence Community is moving forward with life post-COVID – what does that mean for recruiting and retention? The second part of a three-part video cast hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Foundation and underwritten by Avantus Federal unpacks more of the lessons learned in the pandemic that are helping to build and retain a diverse, qualified IC workforce.
“We can see with the vaccine that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Kin Moy, acting assistant secretary, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. State Department. “We also know that our workforce because of the last 13-14 months have different expectations of us. As managers we have to take into consideration the things we’ve learned over the past year that have created a new reality…It’s no longer about presence, it’s about productivity.”
Moy noted that with a fairly small workforce, INR has possibly been less affected by some of the COVID-19 crunch – they’ve continued to maintain their hiring efforts and worked hard to retain the employees they have, and seem limited numbers affected or looking to pursue other opportunities. Across the IC, the value of retention has prompted agencies to look to see what strategies can keep employees involved, engaged, and employed – even when offices had to reduce staffing.
“We started to identify what was it that we could do that was unclassified, said Trey Treadwell, chief financial officer, Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “You can do a lot of business process reengineering that doesn’t have to be done in a SCIF.” He noted that within the IC, you’ll never completely reduce the need to be in the office, but combined strategies of developing shift work schedules, reevaluating what work needed to be done in a classified environment, and adapting and adding both flexibilities and safety features.
“The people in the IC really are the most critical element to making it succeed,” said Treadwell. “So we had to identify ways to make them feel safe and comfortable. Even if it was an expense, those single one-time investments…was something we knew that we had to do.”
The CARES Act was a critical element in ensuring the contract workforce maintained its strength and continuity in a similar fashion to the federal workforce. Treadwell noted the cost of reconstituting that workforce would have been significantly higher than any incidental costs related to making workplaces more safe.
Preventing Insider Threats Through Employee Care
For the IC, one of the key vulnerabilities of COVID came down to the health -both financial and personal – of the workforce. Thanks to the CARES Act and other provisions, the vulnerabilities created by the pandemic, while still significant, were curbed in that area.
“The biggest threat was taken care of when we took care of the people,” said Treadwell. “If that financial risk or burden is there you become a much more significant target for foreign intelligence.”
With financial issues being a top cause of security clearance denial, the concerns of insider threat becoming an issue for a workforce that isn’t being paid increases. But while the past year presented a number of challenges, getting paid despite office closures was not one of them. The IC also acknowledged the increased attacks by foreign intelligence, and operated under the assumption that intelligence efforts were moving forward full throttle – and that the IC community – whether via shift schedules or adjusted work hours – remained vigilant.