Three persistent federal hiring challenges

The federal hiring process poses many challenges to agency decision makers. Learn about three of the most persistent and how to address them.

This content is sponsored by Econsys

There are several persistent challenges that make it difficult for agencies to quickly hire the staff they need when needed. This manifests most clearly in the time it takes to hire a new employee in the Federal Government, when compared to private industry. Private companies, on average, take 23 days to make a hire in the United States–compared with 106 days for the Federal Government. While hire and onboard time had decreased for several years in a row in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, it has been increasing consistently since 2012.

The current federal hiring process has many unnecessary steps, and others that simply take too long. Because the federal hiring cycle can takes upwards of four months, or longer, there are very real concerns about the quality of applicants who are eventually hired. More importantly, there are concerns over the workforce planning and hiring practices being used by agencies to fill positions in advance of when needs might arise.

There are several challenges that need to be addressed for federal agencies to become nimbler and more responsive to their hiring needs, three of which we will discuss below.

Attrition and Hiring rates

Attrition can make the hiring process exceedingly difficult, especially for certain positions that have a limited pool against which to draw. For example, the US Customs and Border Patrol received a 2017 mandate to hire an additional 15,000 law enforcement personnel and support staff and has struggled ever since to meet it. Not only does the organization need to fill these positions; but it needs to replace those who leave the agency, including new staff who don’t stay for long. Increased investment in retention alongside recruitment is needed to address these challenges.

Tenure of the Current Staff

In a recent executive order, President Trump moved to overhaul the process by which employees can be relieved of their duty in federal agencies. While the content of this and other executive orders designed to address HR processes is controversial, the move addresses a common concern in government that it is difficult to let federal employees go. The general perception is that if workers remain in an agency, or the Federal Government, for decades, the government workforce becomes less agile and/or adaptable, with many people becoming improperly equipped or trained to meet the changing mission of an organization. Combined with a lack of funds to hire new staff needed to attain certain goals, gaps develop that are difficult to address in the short term.

Slow Processes in Federal HR

Effective workforce planning that can more quickly deal with shortfalls in staff is often stifled by the antiquated processes still used in many agencies. Spreadsheets, paper forms, and legacy software systems, that don’t integrate with others in the agency, can slow down the planning process and limit the ability of HR specialists to evaluate current and future needs.

Because data is gathered from diverse sources into outdated spreadsheets, for example, analysis is limited and visualization often non-existent. Agency decision makers need better access to key data with resources to leverage technology to the fullest in staffing, classification, and performance management to overcome these shortfalls.

Improving Workforce Gap Analysis

The major issues that impact hiring in federal agencies can be addressed with better, more efficient workforce planning and gap analysis. Using technology to model employee data at the individual level, federal HR managers can pinpoint potential gaps at the grade-level and within mission-critical occupations, based on specific scenarios they might face with the workforce. Through gap analysis, HR departments can produce better predictions of hiring needs both immediately and over the course of the next five years.

More importantly, with this data in hand, HR can act on quantitative gap measurements as they relate to key factors, like changes in attrition rate, surges in demand for key roles, and the impact of new policy decisions and scenarios. As performance management programs adjust, retention programs are implemented, and the recruiting process change, these models can adjust and provide up to date projections that drive smarter, more effective hiring.

About EconSys

We are proud to deliver HR solutions that are designed specifically for federal agencies by former federal HR professionals. We help federal and state agencies to improve their operational efficiency, make better data- driven decisions, and empower State and Federal Governments to improve the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of HR operations to manage the “Hire-to-Retire” lifecycle. From consulting and staffing services to operational and analytical software, we have continued to add innovative and cost-efficient solutions that foster a highly productive and fulfilled workforce for our federal and state clients since 1990. Learn more about our Workforce Planning Solutions and our Workforce Gaps Predictor at

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