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The first group under the “technologist hiring initiative” is about ready to take on the challenge of accelerating the Department of Homeland Security’s drive to improve customer experience.
A senior DHS official said the agency is in the final stages of evaluating almost 1,000 applicants and plans to make job offers before the end of 2022. The official, who requested anonymity to discuss the agency’s initiatives, said DHS hopes to have these new hires in place in January at headquarters and within the component agencies.
“Our starting point is to hire between 50 and 100 at first, but depending on the quality of the candidates, we are looking to use our flexibilities to hire many more,” the official said. “We have several hundred roles we need to fill across the department.”
DHS announced the “technologist hiring initiative” in September at the GS-14 or GS-15 grade levels with a salary offering range of $95,973 to $176,200. The agency specifically sought people with skillsets around senior product manager and human-centered designer as well as software engineering and data science.
The hiring initiative is part of several ongoing efforts across DHS to meet the goals of President Joe Biden’s executive order detailing how agencies need to improve their customer experience. Dec. 13 is the one-year anniversary of that executive order.
“Through the talent and dedication of the department’s employees, we have made significant progress modernizing our delivery of services by harnessing technology and other innovations,” said Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement. “There is more work to be done, as we continue to improve the customer experience for the millions of individuals with whom we interact every day, while advancing equity, protecting individuals’ privacy rights and civil liberties, and increasing our openness, transparency, and accountability.”
One of the goals for the hiring initiative is to help DHS create a more consistent and standard approach to customer experience.
The senior official said the need for more formalized structures isn’t necessarily new to the agency, but the EO has helped drive home the point.
The report recommends DHS can “create accountability for customer experience” by creating a CX office at DHS headquarters. The organization would “encourage a customer experience culture change and collaboration across DHS and serve as a valuable resource for training and CX principles.”
The senior official said DHS is exploring how best to set up a dedicated customer experience office in headquarters and what this idea would look like for the components.
“We have incredible talent around customer experience across the organization, but it may be a CX team that is more focused on addressing contact and calls coming in and not in a position to work on core service delivery. In other cases, it may be within the IT team and doing good for IT services, but doesn’t extend to in person or on paper services,” the official said.
DHS says every component has dug into the CX challenge over the last year in a new way.
From the Transportation Security Administration’s pilot to accept mobile driver’s licenses at checkpoints in Arizona, Colorado and Maryland, which lets travelers tap their phones to go through airport security, to FEMA simplifying policies for disaster survivors to prove their residency or home ownership when applying for assistance, DHS says it is attempting to remove administrative barriers, increase equity, build trust and strengthen security.