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Older Workers: Enhanced Communication among Federal Agencies Could Improve Strategies for Hiring and Retaining Experienced Workers

GAO-09-206 Published: Feb 24, 2009. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 2009.
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The federal workforce, like the nation's workforce as a whole, is aging, and increasingly large percentages are becoming eligible to retire. Eventually baby boomers will leave the workforce and when they do, they will leave behind gaps in leadership, skills, and knowledge due to the slower-growing pool of younger workers. GAO and others have emphasized the need for federal agencies to hire and retain older workers to help address these shortages. Building upon earlier testimony, GAO was asked to examine (1) age and retirement eligibility trends of the current federal workforce and the extent to which agencies hire and retain older workers; (2) workforce challenges selected agencies face and the strategies they use to hire and retain older workers; and (3) actions taken by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to help agencies hire and retain experienced workers. To address these questions, GAO analyzed data from OPM's Central Personal Data File, interviewed officials at three agencies with high proportions of workers eligible to retire, and identified agencies' promising practices to hire and retain older workers.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Personnel Management To better assist agencies in attracting and retaining a highly skilled workforce, the Director of OPM should develop a systematic approach, which may include communicating through the Chief Human Capital Officer Council, to share information broadly across the federal government about agency-developed promising practices in recruitment and retention of older, experienced workers to meet their workforce needs.
Closed – Implemented
In 2009, OPM reported that it already had tools available on its web site to help federal agencies attract, recruit, and retain talented workers, including older workers. However, GAO believed that the web site did not discuss the promising practices that had been developed by individual federal agencies and, as a consequence, this information was not readily available governmentwide. Widespread dissemination of agency-developed promising practices would help federal agencies build upon the experiences of others in developing strategies to meet workforce challenges. In 2011, OPM posted information about agency-developed promising practices in recruiting and retaining older, experienced workers on its Website that provides tools to recruiters for federal jobs. In addition, the topic of older workers has been the focus of a recent meeting of the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO Academy), which is a forum for members of the CHCO community to share best practices in the strategic management of human capital.

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Baby boomersData collectionEligibility determinationsEmployee retentionEmployeesExecutive agenciesFederal agenciesFederal downsizingFederal employeesGovernment employeesHiring policiesHuman capitalHuman capital managementHuman capital planningKnowledge, skills and abilitiesLabor forceLabor shortagesOlder workersPart-time employmentPersonnel recruitingReductions in forceRetireesRetirementSkilled laborStaff utilizationStrategic planning