Federal agencies face a range of management challenges driven by fiscal constraints, changing demographics, a wave of federal retirements, and the evolving role of the public sector. The nation’s response to COVID-19 may also challenge the federal workforce. Some leading practices in human capital management can help overcome some of these challenges.
For federal agencies to meet 21st century challenges, they must develop long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff. For example, agencies should involve HR professionals and key stakeholders in strategic and workforce planning efforts. They should also monitor and evaluate progress toward its human capital goals, maintain an inventory of employee skills and competencies, and have a process to address skills/competency gaps.
Effectively training federal employees involves developing a strategic approach that establishes training priorities and leverages investment in training. This should include leaders who communicate the importance of training and encourage employees to participate in training activities. It should also include a training and development unit that is held accountable for the enhanced performance of the workforce. Finally, it should include quantitative and qualitative performance data to assess the results achieved through training and development efforts.
Performance management systems are used tohelp set employees’ performance expectations, monitor performance throughout the year, and rate and reward performance. To use these systems effectively, agencies should align individual performance expectations with organizational goals, make meaningful distinctions in individual performance (e.g., through ratings and/or bonuses), and involve employees in the development, modification, and evaluation of the performance management system.
Recruitment and hiring involves implementing strategies to attract top candidates, identifying the most qualified candidates, and coordinating the process of bringing a new hire on board. To do this effectively, agencies should develop customized strategies to recruit highly specialized and hard-to-fill positions, use vacancy announcements that are clear, user-friendly, and comprehensive, and conduct regular surveys to gauge satisfaction levels with the hiring process.
Diversity management helps foster a positive work environment where the similarities and differences of individuals are valued, so that all can reach their potential and maximize their contributions. To ensure that they have a diverse and dynamic workforce, agencies should develop a diversity strategy that aligns with the organization's strategic plan. They should also hold top managers accountable by linking their performance assessment and compensation to the progress of diversity initiatives. Finally, they should have a recruitment process for attracting a supply of qualified, diverse applicants for employment.
Leading organizations engage in broad, integrated succession planning and management efforts that focus on strengthening both current and future organizational capacity. As part of this approach, agencies should focus on current and future needs and develop pools of high-potential staff to meet the organization's long-term goals. They should also identify talent from multiple organizational levels, early in careers or with critical skills, and emphasize developmental or "stretch" assignments for high-potential employees (in addition to formal training).