Panel: Hiring reform critical as brain drain looms

Two years have passed since President Obama called on agencies to reform the hiring process. Nearly everyone agreed: Hiring in the federal government took too long.

For one, it was difficult for applicants to navigate the byzantine federal system. Long essays wasted everyone’s time. The new goal was to reduce federal hiring to a more manageable 80 days so the best candidates didn’t get away.

Denise Carter (left) of Health and Human Services and Angela Bailey of the Office of Personnel Management discuss federal hiring reform in a live, on-air discussion on Federal News Radio. (Photo by Mike O’Connell/Federal News Radio)
The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discussed the big issues in recruitment, hiring and retention with a panel of federal hiring experts:

  • Angela Bailey, Associate Director for Employee Services and Chief Human Capital Officer at the Office of Personnel Management.
  • Denise L. Carter, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Chief Human Capital Officer, at Health and Human Services.
  • John Crum, Director of the Office of Policy and Evaluation at the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Bailey said the legislative attacks on federal pay and benefits are a worrying trend, particularly how proposals that freeze pay or cut benefits will impact recruitment and retention. She said about 60 percent of the Senior Executive Service is eligible to retire.

That brain drain is already happening, Crum said.

“The need for that talent is only going to increase for us as the retirement tsunami passes through, which it is right now hitting us. We’re going to be turning over more people,” he said.

One of the biggest struggles for federal government is staying competitive in hiring experts in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

John Crum of the Merit Systems Protection Board said hiring in the federal government has been in a "good state" because the recession has made a federal job competitive. As the country recovers, agencies will need to work harder and compete with private industry to hire top talent, he said.
At HHS, Carter said hiring managers are competing with the medical community at-large. The agency needs people with “specific skill sets,” she said.

The goal now is to create an application process that is easier and more user-friendly — and won’t deter applications from top talent — while still maintaining a rigorous review process, Bailey said.