Roadmap for Renewing Our Federal Government

Talent

Bright Spots
The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed federal employees to find smarter and better ways to serve the public, resulting in an array of breakthroughs to long-standing problems.

At the Veterans Health Administration, the need to quickly hire additional medical professionals to combat the pandemic spurred the agency to rethink its hiring process. VHA has shortened the time it takes to bring new staff onboard from 94 days to just 10 to 12 days.

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When the pandemic began, just 44% of the IRS workforce was eligible for telework. By the end of June, about 50,000 of the agency’s 63,000 employees were teleworking, and by July 24, 2020, IRS employees had processed 146 million individual tax returns.

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The Small Business Administration, responsible for overseeing the $350-billion Paycheck Protection Program enacted by Congress in response to the 2020 economic downturn, was able to overcome the traditionally slow federal hiring process and increase the size of its workforce by about 50% between March and July, hiring more than 2,600 people to handle the expanded workload.

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Problem
The federal government is failing to recruit, hire and retain diverse talent with the right skills needed to meet the complex challenges facing our nation today and in the future. The hiring process is long and complicated, the workforce is aging, the competition for top talent is fierce, federal employee engagement lags that of the private sector, and the federal compensation system does not reflect the broader labor market.
It takes government an average of 98 days to bring new talent on board—more than double the time in the private sector.
As of June 2019, 6.3% of full-time federal employees are under 30. Roughly one-third of employees onboard at the beginning of fiscal 2019 will be eligible to retire by the end of fiscal 2023.
As of June 2019, people of color represent 46% of all full-time, entry-level (GS 1-9) employees but only 32% of senior-level positions (GS 13-15) and just 22% of all career Senior Executive Service members.
About 83% major federal departments and agencies struggle with staffing shortages and 63% report gaps in the knowledge and skills of their employees.
The 2019 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® employee engagement score was 61.7 out of 100, lagging behind the private sector by more than 15 points.
According to the Survey on the Future of Government Service, just 32% of respondents say their agency has a strategic recruitment plan that’s aligned to its workforce needs.
Solutions
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed high demands on the federal workforce, and agencies across government are capitalizing on this time of national urgency to rethink how they recruit, hire and manage their people. We need that same commitment to talent modernization across government. It also is time for a renewed call to public service to refresh the government's talent at all levels. Internships, proactive recruiting on college campuses, partnerships with universities and better use of expedited hiring authorities are proactive ways to bring young and diverse talent into government. Simplifying the obstacle-laden hiring system would allow agencies to hire better and faster to attract employees with needed skills. Federal leaders could improve employee engagement by soliciting and responding to employee feedback, and ensuring employees have a positive work environment and the resources needed to do their jobs. Congress could also consider moving the government away from the 70-year old compensation system to an occupation-specific, market-sensitive approach that could help attract skilled professionals.
Early Actions for the Next Administration

Modernize recruiting and hiring. Issue a renewed call to public service, launch a campaign for federal employment and endorse the value of public service and government as an employer of choice. Create new and innovative pathways – and expand existing ones – for mission-critical talent to join public service through fellowships, talent exchanges and service corps. Launch a government-wide initiative to help agencies improve the federal hiring process so they can more easily attract, assess, hire and onboard highly-qualified applicants.
Improve employee engagement and retention. Direct agency leaders to use the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® results to identify and address top federal employee concerns with their workplace, their agency and their leadership. Ensure agencies have necessary tools and action plans to address new and systemic issues identified by the federal survey and BPTW data, and hold leaders accountable for following through on such plans.
Strengthen human resources capacity. Make building HR capacity a priority and signal this by including an increased investment in training for HR professionals as well as funding for more full time HR employees.
Enhance learning and development. Direct agency leaders to provide training and orientation for new supervisors and managers along with continuous development at all levels; establish training programs with cross-agency participation to increase understanding of other agency efforts; promote the use of developmental placements, such as interagency task forces and rotations, Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignments and cross-sector exchanges, to foster continuous learning and the sharing of best practices.
Provide a clear mandate for the Office of Personnel Management. Nominate a highly qualified Office of Personnel Management director with extensive government experience and deep expertise in federal talent issues. Task OPM with developing a proposal for a new, modernized personnel system for government that will appeal to the top talent through flatter hierarchies, team-oriented assignments, competitive salaries, opportunities for professional development and enhanced workplace flexibilities like remote work.
Resources
A Time for Talent: Improving Federal Recruiting and Hiring
To deliver for the American people now and in the future, and competently respond to inevitable crises, the government must be able to recruit and hire a world-class workforce. Yet the federal recr...
Looking Inward for Talent: Retraining Employees for Tomorrow’s Jobs
In “Looking Inward for Talent: Retraining Employees for Tomorrow’s Jobs,” the Partnership for Public Service and General Assembly make the case for why agencies should consider reskilling and...
Building the Case for Talent Development
The federal government must invest in its workforce if it is to address modern challenges. The Partnership and Cornerstone OnDemand developed these 5 tips to help agencies prepare a case to leaders...
Engaging a Remote Workforce
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many federal agencies have transitioned operations to remote work—or teleworking—to protect the health of their employees. For many s...
Shutdown shuts out the next generation of public servants
The longest government shutdown in our nation's history and the threat of a reoccurrence in less than two weeks will further discourage an already skeptical younger generation from public service. Th...
Max Stier Testimony before the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service’s Final Report
Written testimony of Max Stier, President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service prepared for the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service. Hearing entitled, “Improving Basic...
NextGen Feds: Recruiting the Next Generation of Public Servants
Written testimony of Margot Conrad, Director for Federal Recruiting and Hiring Programs, Partnership for Public Service.Prepared for The House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Gove...
Max Stier Testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Written testimony of Max Stier, President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service prepared for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing entitled, “Workforce for the 21st...
A revealing look at racial diversity in the federal government
While the federal government uses a merit system to ensure fairness in hiring, pay and promotions, federal employees of color still face a biased system. A look at the data shows that people of col...
Frontline Feds: Serving the Public During a Pandemic
On June 25, 2020, Partnership President and CEO, Max Stier testified in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations for ...
Best Places to Work in the Federal Government
The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings, part of our effort to strengthen the federal workforce and the management of government, offer the most comprehensive assessment of how fe...
Go Government, where federal careers begin
No matter your experience level, if you are curious about obtaining work in the government, you’re in the right place. This site is designed to be your guide as you consider, apply, and secure feder...
Cybersecurity Talent Initiative
A public-private coalition connecting the best and brightest new technologists with high impact opportunities to protect the nation
Partnership for Public Service and the Volcker Alliance launch new initiative to address critical reforms to archaic civil service system
The Partnership for Public Service and the Volcker Alliance, two nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations focused on helping build a high-performing, effective government, have joined together to press...