Insight by Cornerstone

Agencies need to hire and retain the right talent to fulfill the mission

All of the federal innovations, IT modernizations and smart policies won’t amount to much unless agencies hire and retain the right talent. Along with traditional skills, expertise in emerging disciplines such as artificial intelligence, data- and evidence-based decision making, and customer experience design will have increasing importance in agency operations and mission delivery systems.

Therefore, agency human capital, program and executive management must ensure that their strategies for workforce attraction, development and planning use the best contemporary practices and technologies. And, they’ve got to have effective strategies for reskilling and training in higher level skills – now the term is “upskilling” – the people they do have.

In short, a principal agency goal should be avoidance of what you might call talent disruption. And in fact many agency human resources/human capital and technology managers are instituting such best practices. Federal News Network and Cornerstone OnDemand asked a panel just such people for guidance and lessons learned.

Among the highlights: Agency managers need to be more agile in how they look at the workforce, understanding the value in mixing short term people or people in mid-career joining government, to bring in their special skills and experiences.

Managers must also take a data-drive approach to understanding the dynamics in the workforce they have, and in the people they will need in the future, in order to build cogent workforce plans.

Agencies must be willing to invest in the latest human capital tools for recruiting and presenting the agency mission in the best light to prospects. This, with the understanding that the mission itself is often the best selling point for would-be hires.

Equally important, talent and human capital is everyone’s business – program, finance, acquisition, technology and HR staffs all have an interest in and a contribution to make in good workforce planning and avoiding the talent disruption.


Current Workforce Strategy

Before the covid arrived, we had an initiative called the right, trusted, agile workforce initiative. We’re trying to make this agile workforce that works easily in and out of government. This initiative has allowed us to push forward on the ability to work with the private sector in ways we never have.


Workforce Development and Mission Delivery

Emerging technologies “underscore in a broad sense is the importance of what are often referred to as the soft skills. And making sure we are recruiting, developing and incentivizing people that are comfortable in an environment in which they’re going to be dealing with evidence, with customers, with partnerships, and collaborations, and networks.


Recruitment Techniques

I had this philosophy as a federal hiring manager, but it wasn’t widespread: The federal government is primarily headquartered in Washington D.C., and therefore we’ve assumed our talent pool is within the geographical constraints of D.C. or wherever the headquarters is. The covid situation has taught us our talent pool is much bigger…because we’re allowing geographically-dispersed applicants to apply.

Listen to the full show:

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Panel of experts

  • Sherry Van Sloun

    Assistant Director, National Intelligence for Human Capital, Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  • Bruce Gipe

    Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Office of Special Council

  • Chris Mihm

    Managing Director, Strategic Issues, Government Accountability Office

  • Steve Dobberowsky

    Senior Principal, Thought Leadership and Advisory Services, Cornerstone

  • Tom Temin

    Host, The Federal Drive, Federal News Network