Top 3 for 2013 – Jeff Neal on the changing federal workforce

Jeff Neal, senior vice president, ICF International

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Your agency’s employees are driving one of the toughest technology challenges your agency has — dealing with the mobile revolution.

Jeff Neal, senior vice president at ICF International and the former chief human capital officer at the Department of Homeland Security, says the demand for mobility will mean your agency works differently in 2013 than it does today.

Jeff Neal’s Top 3 for 2013
  1. Mobile/Remote Work and Learning. The Federal government will accelerate its movement toward mobility. We will see increased use of smartphones and tablets, teleworking, and mobile and remote training and conferencing, fueled by cost pressures, conference scandals, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, and rapidly improving technology. Mobile learning and virtual workplaces are a reality today, as is the capability to conduct virtual conferences that far exceed the “video tele-conference” of the past. Most agencies already have the technology they need to support the transition to a mobile and better-connected workplace – they just need to know how to do it.
  2. Quality of Leadership. The recent “Best Places to Work” rankings from the Partnership for Public Service, based upon OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, reveal an ever-increasing demand for exceptional leadership in government. Employee feedback is loud and clear and it is not just because of the pay freeze. Many of areas for improvement, such as fair promotions and recognition, hiring based on merit, effectively dealing with poor performers, and others, are almost entirely dependent upon the quality of leadership in agencies. Federal managers, many chosen for superb technical skills, are often left to fend for themselves when it comes to developing the leadership skills they need for successful performance. Such skills can be developed, but it takes time, and more than a quick leadership course. Effective leader development programs are a great use of scarce resources because every dollar is leveraged to improve quality of the work environment for everyone who reports to the leaders who are trained.
  3. Talent Management. The pay freeze, slowdowns in hiring, political pressure, and the increasing imperative to do more with less will continue to influence federal employee retirement decisions. As seasoned Feds depart the workforce, taking decades of experience with them, agencies must make the best use of their labor dollars to recruit, retain and develop talent. Downsizing in some agencies will lead to hiring freezes or slowdowns, and the temptation to simply allow attrition to play out will lead to talent imbalances that threaten agencies’ ability to effectively carry out their missions. Although the departures may be painful, they also present an opportunity to reshape the workforce to meet the demands of the 21st century. Data-driven workforce planning, hiring supported by real assessment/testing of candidates, effective training programs supported by research-based competency models, and real agency and individual performance management, will enable agencies with fewer resources to accomplish their missions with a better selected and trained and more engaged workforce.