We the Partnership

How public-private talent exchanges benefit the federal government

By Jessie Stern
November 29, 2021

Public-private talent exchanges enable federal agencies to deploy civil servants to the private sector, host private sector employees on detail, or both. In turn, they facilitate cross-sector collaboration that improves public service and supports private enterprise.

 However, the federal government has yet to realize the full potential of these programs.

In collaboration with EY, the Partnership for Public Service recently released a report examining several current and previous federal talent exchange initiatives. The report aims to help federal agencies better understand the benefits and challenges of talent exchanges—and more effectively use them.

The benefits

Talent exchanges foster knowledge sharing between government and the private sector. Participants gain new skills through different types of hands-on learning experiences that can be valuable to additions to typical employee training. This professional development and public-private collaboration help agencies recruit and retain critical talent and make new connections outside government.

The challenges

Most of the challenges surrounding talent exchanges involve creating the program itself—more specifically, the logistics involved in starting and implementing the program, including staff time and effort, partner relationship management and recruiting participants. In addition, each public-private talent exchange needs to comply with federal laws and regulations—obligations that are often more difficult to fulfill than they sound.

Recommendations

To combat these challenges, Congress should work with agencies to build ethical and productive talent exchanges. For example, members of Congress should design programs in collaboration with  participating agencies to ensure regulations are followed and to maximize benefits.

Furthermore, when seeking legislative support for a talent exchange, agencies should first identify the resources and legal authorities they require to launch an effective exchange program. To do this, agencies should work with federal ethics officials and program managers who have already implemented or administered federal talent exchanges to learn from their experiences.

Public-private talent exchanges are a promising strategy that can help agencies manage their talent and achieve their mission. When implemented properly, they offer several important benefits to our federal government.

Read more from the report “Trading Places: The Benefits, Challenges and Potential of Federal Public-Private Talent Exchanges.

Jessie Stern is an intern on the Partnership’s Communications team.


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