Recruiting and retaining diverse talent from outside the Washington, D.C. area
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Recruiting and retaining diverse talent from outside the Washington, D.C. area

October 11, 2022

The federal government needs a strong and diverse federal workforce to tackle pressing challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and more. However, several barriers make it difficult for federal hiring managers working outside the Washington, D.C. area to recruit and retain talent. By serving as a connector between job seekers and federal agencies, the Partnership aims to reduce these barriers—specifically by strengthening federal talent pipelines in the Western U.S.

Recruiting diverse talent

While most people assume all federal employees work in Washington, D.C., the opposite is in fact true. Today, roughly 85% of federal employees work outside the Washington, D.C., area, with the largest concentration residing in California.

However, outside of the Washington, D.C., job seekers may not be fully aware of federal career opportunities or know how to navigate the lengthy government hiring process.

According to representatives from California community colleges and workforce development organizations, many job seekers are unfamiliar with these opportunities and often turn to their immediate community when searching for work.

This lack of knowledge affects who enters the federal workforce. For example, while the federal government is one of the largest employers in the state of California, only 7.3% of California’s federal employees are younger than 30 compared with 44.2% who are 50 or older.

This gap should be a cause for concern given that half of the federal workforce in California will be eligible to retire by 2028. Federal agencies should make an effort to connect with recent graduates and young job seekers to ensure that mission-critical positions do not go unfilled as employees retire. Federal hiring managers can work with representatives from higher education institutions and workforce development boards to demystify careers in the federal government. By providing training sessions on applications, job titles, language use in job postings and federal resumes, jobseekers will have the resources to apply.

Retaining diverse talent

Once they begin working in the federal government, employees need to have clear advancement opportunities. Providing career ladder positions, which allow an employee to progress through a certain range of pay levels without reapplying for each promotion, and creating support systems such as affinity groups can help agencies retain diverse talent.

The makeup of California’s federal workforce suggests that government as a whole needs to initiate more efforts to retain diverse talent. While 50% of federal employees in the state come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, they make up a majority of positions at the GS-1 to GS-5 level—entry-level positions in the federal workforce—while white employees make up a majority of the workforce above the GS-6 level. It is important for agencies to learn how to best retain diverse talent because diverse perspectives equip agencies to better serve the needs of underrepresented and marginalized communities.

Bringing best practices to a regional setting

In November, the Partnership will host two major events to raise the profile of federal opportunities in western regions and bolster federal agencies’ ability to recruit job seekers of diverse backgrounds.

Through a career expo, job seekers will be able to learn about federal opportunities and connect directly with federal agencies in Western states. Following the career expo, we will host a summit to bring together thought leaders and practitioners in federal human resources, academia and workforce development to inform and propel efforts aimed at bolstering the federal talent pipeline in the Western U.S.

Learn more about the career expo and summit and to register to join.

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