The Biden administration has made the federal workforce a top priority. Reforms it is asking of agencies cover recruiting, hiring and skills management.
“And that’s not just the workforce that folks have today,” said Matt Cornelius, the managing director for federal industry at Workday. “It’s also how are we planning to make sure that we have the right workforce in the coming years and decades to deliver on federal missions.”
Per the President’s Management Agenda and sound practice generally, agencies must take a data-driven approach to transforming their workforce and workforce planning.
Cornelius said Workday is taking what it’s learned from commercial and state and local government clients, and applying it to federal ones.
“Part of that is working with agencies to help them break the data they currently have out of all the silos that sit in all of these bespoke systems,” Cornelius said, “and bring those into a single platform.” The idea is chief human capital officers and their staffs, chief technology officers, even department heads and cabinet secretaries can thereby have a unified, comprehensive look of their workforce.
Comprehensive views of individual employees – their talents, experiences, training and career goals – also contributes to agency retention and planning.
“That’s job descriptions,” Cornelius said. “That’s structures within program offices. That’s training needs. That’s where folks are in their federal journey,” Cornelius said. “So we can see individual level, but we also see the enterprise level.” He said Workday provides these views this with a core human resources management platform that can ingest and normalize data from disparate systems for various HR activities and their associated “bespoke” systems.
If understanding the workforce in totality and individually matters, then so does connecting that understanding to the financials that underlie personnel and everything an agency does, Cornelius said.
“We have to give managers visibility across their current teams and the composition of the current structure folks that they manage,” Cornelius said. “And think about what that means as their budgets come out, and how that ties into the workforce needs.” Workday is able to integrate its HCM core with its financial and payroll offerings to close the gap, he said.
Merging the data
Agency people concerned with the IT underlying all of the systems contributing to a total view of human capital may question how so many disparate data sets can merge, given their varying formats.
No single answer exists, Cornelius said. “We are aligning all of Workday’s capabilities with OPM data classifications, regulations, rules and procedures that they have. On the financial side, we’re doing the same with the Treasury Department.” He said that the federal data sharing environment is more challenging than that of the commercial because “you have to comply with all of the Treasury accounts work, and then all of the OPM regulations when it comes to HR.”
Cornelius added, “I’m very happy with this administration, because OPM, Treasury, the General Services Administration, DOD – all of these agencies are open to these conversations. They’re not shying away from the challenges they have.”
Uncertainty on several fronts is driving the need for a data-based approach to HR management and planning, Cornelius said.
“You have budget uncertainty of appropriations,” he said. “You have folks that may or may not retire. You have the still-lingering impacts of COVID, and how that’s affecting the work life balance that your employees would like to have going forward, and how that’s influencing their own sort of professional decisions.” Therefore, he added, HR systems must not only show conditions as they stand, but let managers run scenarios and what-if questions related to the workforce – not just in general but in particular.
“If you’re at the Department of Transportation, and you know you’ve got a major deficit of air traffic controllers, solving that challenge is a very different challenge than just saying we need to improve the cyber workforce,” Cornelius said. “There are different challenges. Being able to have those individual use case scenarios for agencies and showing them what that path looks like – it’s incredibly powerful.”