The current unemployment rate sits at just 3.7%, and even as some economists predict it could spike to 5.5% – it would still be lower than the 5.74% average from 1948 until 2022. Americans simply have more options when it comes to finding employment, and employees can be far pickier about the jobs they’re willing to take. But the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) is dealing with a worker shortage. At the same time, they’re also pushing to be far more inclusive with hiring and retaining minorities, women, and persons with disabilities. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the IC Annual Demographic Report for Fiscal Year 2021, highlighting the ongoing efforts to drive workforce diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, while also addressing areas of improvement.
“To provide strategic advantage to policymakers and warfighters, we need to understand the world, which is constantly evolving and more connected than ever,” said Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, via a statement. “Building an IC workforce made up of people who think differently, see problems differently, and overcome challenges differently is a prerequisite for success.”
The annual demographic report to congress is required by law, and since 2016 has been published publicly as an effort to provide transparency into the IC’s progress to improving diversity, inclusion, and accessibility.
Competing in An Evolving Employer Marketplace
The report noted that in order to attract and retain a diverse, inclusive, and expert workforce, the IC must compete in an evolving employer marketplace. At the same time, the IC’s ability to leverage the talent and perspectives of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints is considered critical in a rapidly changing global threat environment.
“Ensuring that we have an IC workforce who thinks differently, sees problems differently, and overcomes challenges differently is imperative. Their creativity ensures that our nation is secure against the array of adversaries and the foreign threats we face,” the report stated.
Moreover, ODNI also suggested that IC data may not reflect workforce trends reported in the larger U.S. labor market because most IC positions require a bachelor’s degree, and as of FY 2020, just 32 percent of the U.S. workforce met that requirement.
“This is a mix master of different things going on at the same time,” explained Dr. Maurice “Mo” Cayer, program coordinator MS-Human Resources at the University of New Haven.
“First, we have a large number of openings in the workforce – only six million people are now in the workforce, so there are 1.7 openings for every person looking for work,” Cayer told ClearanceJobs.
As a result, applicants have far more leverage than they’ve ever had. That allows many applicants to be “fussy” in the positions they are willing to take said Cayer. “Even though the number of available jobs is shrinking, it is still astronomical.”
Casting a Wide Hiring Net
The efforts to have a more inclusive workforce isn’t entirely new for ODNI, which has embraced “diversity” as a core value of its Principles of Professional Ethics for the Intelligence Community. The principle suggests that to combat emergent global, and increasingly complex national security threats, the IC must employ, develop, and retain a dynamic, agile workforce that reflects diversity in its broadest context: cultural backgrounds, ethnicity, race, gender, age, disability, gender identify, heritage, language proficiency, and perspectives.
The question that some may ask is whether the issue to ensure such diversity could mean that positions go unfilled – and in turn put the country’s security at risk.
“Carried to the extreme, it can be problem,” warned Cayer. “If you don’t have qualified employees, people who are connecting the dots, then there could be issues. The IC needs to focus on skill sets first and foremost, and hiring people on diversity may not get the job done. Representativeness is a laudable goal, but it isn’t the first goal, which is accomplishing the mission.”
In addition, there is the concern that to fill the roles, the IC may need to lower its standards. Yet, perhaps some of the standards could be lowered to find the best candidates.
“An example would be the college requirement,” added Cayer. “At least in a general sense, there is an opinion that all positions may not need a degree. Jobs could be filled on skills, not on a proxy of a degree from a particular university. Instead, it should be whether the employee can look at a case critically, and ‘connect the dots.'”
The final consideration in finding the right talent is that those who work in the IC generally enjoy what they do, and efforts should be made to harness that job satisfaction.
“The IC is struggling a bit with hiring and retention, even as satisfaction is relatively high compared to other federal agencies,” noted Cayer. “They should be bragging about that, ‘people like working here.'”