Every President since Bill Clinton has tried to transform the federal workforce and undo the systemic sexism and racism embedded in federal hiring processes. After twenty years of little to no progress, the Biden Administration’s focus on racial and gender equity, and implementation of EO-13932 provides an opportunity to finally drive real change.
Replacing biased and non-predictive hiring practices (such as the use of minimum education requirements and candidate self-assessments) with scientifically validated assessments of each applicant’s abilities has the potential to increase diversity and reach the broader goal of improving the overall quality of candidates entering federal service.
According to the Talent Board’s 2016 Candidate Experience Research Report, 82% of companies use some form of pre-employment assessment to improve the quality and diversity of their hiring decisions. However, according to GSA’s recent Hiring Assessment and Selection Outcome Dashboard, the selection process for less than 2% of all jobs posted on USA Jobs last year used objective assessments as part of the selection process.
The latest Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program Report to Congress (published in 2016) demonstrates just how biased and broken the federal hiring system is as a result:
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While implementing scientifically validated assessments is a good first step toward improving diversity in hiring, efforts can’t stop there. The government needs to take a holistic approach and reengineer the entire selection process to rid hiring and talent acquisition of systemic bias. Fortune 500 companies that have successfully increased the quality and diversity of hires using assessments have transformed their entire talent acquisition process, from advertising and initial engagement of potential applicants all the way to final selection.
To transform its hiring and talent acquisition processes, the federal government would do well to emulate the below best practices and tactics that the private sector has implemented to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.
After centuries of systemic oppression and decades of failed attempts to correct it, we finally have a moment in time at which we might make real, substantive progress with respect to making the federal hiring process more equitable. It is the responsibility of every career executive in the federal government to take advantage of this unique moment in time and drive real change.
Joe Paiva is a retired Federal CIO and Army Officer. Allie Wehling is an IO Psychologist and SHRM-SCP.