In Bush-Obama transition, Fed employers face a perfect storm of job demand

As the economy sputters and unemployment slopes upward, Federal agencies are likely to benefit in a big way. It makes sense for Government officials to plan for a growing surplus of highly qualified job candidates for Federal service. As the private sector job supply continues to contract, government jobs will attract applicants in increasing numbers.

And there’s yet another favorable factor in play here. Enthusiasm for public service has spiked significantly upward, particularly among the young. The Obama ‘brand’ that turned out hordes of campaign volunteers has already triggered a staggering (if somewhat unrealistic) influx of applicants for political appointment since the November election. Expect substantial numbers of these quarter-million aspirants to redirect their job searches through the conventional civil service (GS) process this year, joining many new and recent graduates from American colleges and universities.

To borrow the latest media cliché, government recruiters are facing a perfect storm of employment demand—one brewed in economic hard times and reinforced by “Yes, we can!” enthusiasm among the young. Times couldn’t be better for the Federal talent pool. If you’re an agency hiring manager–particularly one in a discipline related to energy, the environment, education, or transportation—prepare yourself for a surplus of highly talented candidates.

My advice: take advantage of this opportunity while you have it. Do your part to ensure that your ‘rookies’ are joining workplace cultures attuned to teamwork, and that their talents are put to the most productive use. Otherwise…well, you know the rest. Conditions in the general economy are certain to change for the better, and maybe sooner than you expect. Dedicated new hires, however enthusiastic during recruitment, will carefully (re) evaluate the agency cultures in which they find themselves. And they may have other, more attractive career options before 2009 winds down.

So agencies should plan seriously for retaining these ‘windfall’ recruits, for ensuring that they stay on board as productive Federal employees for many years, and not just months.

Don’t be complacent about your good fortune. Address workplace culture and retention…so that all of your agency’s workforce, not to mention its day-to-day operations, can extract lasting benefits from this perfect storm in Federal human capital.

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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