Incoming ‘chief people person’ mandates an HR SWAT team in every federal agency. Are we finally on the road to hiring reform?

In an effort to get government moving on practical hiring reforms, Office of Personnel Management chief John Berry is mandating a handful of audacious new HR measures. Berry, who calls himself “the Chief People Person for the Federal Government,” has instructed all agencies and departments to shape up many of their human capital processes.                                       

We all know how complex and frustrating the process of hiring and on-boarding can be in the government. There’s been a hue-and-cry for years that the cycle has to be shortened and the process simplified. Enter John Berry, flush with the new administration’s energy, enthusiasm and optimism.

“We have, by and large, the best workers in the world,” Berry told attendees in his keynote at July’s Excellence in Government conference,” but we do not have the systems or policies we need to support them.” His agenda for reform mandates just that, from streamlining the agency hiring process and making it more transparent to the public, to improving employee satisfaction and wellness.

Berry apparently means business with his SWAT team mandate, requiring each agency to appoint key managers and human capital staffers to their respective teams. Responsible for all aspects of the reform agenda in their agencies, the teams will address issues like mapping their hiring process, putting job announcements in plain English, notifying applicants at all stages, and involving hiring managers in the recruiting process. All agency SWAT teams were required to be in place and working by early July; they’re each on the hook for a full progress report to OPM by the end of September. To keep the teams motivated and productive, key OPM staffers have been detailed to each.

By December 15, all agencies have to submit action plans that both identify the barriers to hiring the best and brightest and also establish measurable paths to reversing these barriers and improving HR operations across the board. If you’re interested, I refer you to Berry’s June 18 memo which sets out all these mandates and goals pretty plainly.

For his part, Berry’s own goal is no less than “a complete refresh of the federal government’s people policy.” A lot of folks are rooting for him, including this commentator.

Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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