In my last post I addressed the talent life cycle in Federal agencies. I pointed to a few hypothetical examples where well-meaning agencies can serve one workforce segment well while neglecting other important team members along this career continuum.
The bottom line: measures to keep the workforce engaged through all stages of the talent life cycle—from recruitment to retirement–are essential to the health of federal agencies.
Setting aside how individual agencies address this challenge, I see three general threats to healthy talent life cycles in government today.
1. The “brain drain”. We’ve addressed this issue before, but I want to make a key point here. With many, if not most, of the government’s key senior experienced resources poised to retire in the next few years, how can the federal workforce culture avoid taking a big hit? The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently surveyed the government’s most senior executives and found that nearly 42% were planning to leave federal service in the next three years, and more than 61% in the next five years. I should note that the survey addressed the Senior Executive Service (SES) corps only; so you can be sure that OPM will take whatever steps are necessary to replenish this elite population. Still, if so large a proportion of SESers are planning to leave, what should we expect among the tens of thousands of equally experienced Feds who are also approaching retirement eligibility?
2. No one’s responsible for inspiring the American public about public service careers. Of course, the core business of my unit at TMP is attracting recruits to hiring agencies, and we certainly achieve remarkable results on an agency-by-agency basis. But there’s a broader need, and that’s to develop a compelling value proposition for government service across the board, from building awareness and admiration in high school and college students to making the case for service to second-career adults. This is a high-concept objective…and an essential one to bring about if we want to help replenish the government workforce from the outside in. Problem is, what organization—governmental, non-profit advocacy, commercial joint venture–should properly step up to take on this encyclopedic challenge?
3. Development of inclusive workplace cultures. By the numbers, the government is doing quite well in recruiting women and some minorities. Among other groups, however–particularly individuals with disabilities and Hispanic Americans–its performance is less than exemplary. We need more energy applied to this task and to the broader challenge of inspiring across-the-board recognition of the value of cultural differences in the Federal workplace. At the same time we need to energetically translate this recognition into truly inclusive agency cultures. TMP has developed a white paper on recruiting, retaining, and integrating individuals with disabilities. You can download a copy here, or email me at Mark.Havard@tmp.com and I’ll send one on to you.
All three of these are big-picture challenges for sure. But maybe the time is right for mounting a serious government-wide agenda for tackling all three. Individual agencies can’t do it all alone.