The federal financial management workforce is in need of a transformation.
Chief financial officer shops are facing a disruption from technology, from automation and from a host of other emerging innovations.
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Add to those disruptions the ever-present retirement wave that is affecting the federal financial management workforce, like many other sectors, and it’s clear the CFO Council that it must take fast action to address these potential and real shortcomings.
To that end, the CFO Council released a new request for information to set up a training marketplace to help drive this much-needed transformation.
“Our federal CFOs really want to shift their organizational responsibilities from that routine, repeatable transactions that we’re all faced with every day, to high value efforts, business partnerships, supporting decision making, those things, and we need a workforce that has those skills,” said Evan Farley, the director of audit management and accountability at the General Service Administration and a co-leader of the CFO Council’s workforce modernization effort, in an interview with Federal News Network. “The other two things are we need to create or support a professional workforce that has those skills to match those current and future needs. We also need to assess and adapt to the ways technology is changing the way we work.”
This is not a new challenge for the CFO Council. It recognized the need to evolve in a recent strategic plan, through the quick acceptance of robotics process automation and other intelligent automation technologies — the use of which more than doubled in fiscal 2020 — and now by a new request for information to set up an education and training marketplace.
Farley said the convergence of technology and leadership understanding the need to change more quickly is driving this financial management transformation.
“The request for information, which is a tool to create the partnership we want with private industry, is just one of a number of things that we’re looking to do under the larger umbrella of what is called the CFO and the future is now. We came up with four pursuits, at least in the short term, one of which was a workforce modernization strategy that does get to culture, recruiting about the future of workforce and planning for succession.”
The RFI and the eventual creation of the training and education marketplace is a piece to this broader workforce transformation effort. In the CFO Council’s strategic plan released earlier this year, the initiative around supporting the current workforce highlighted the need to move to a “career focused” mindset from a “job focused” mindset. Responses to the RFI are due Dec. 16.
“It will identify the required skills for success, highlight and reinforce individual and workforce strengths, and strive to mentor, train and provide opportunities for all federal FM professionals as they seek to become experts in their chosen field,” the strategic plan stated. “The federal government is constantly competing with the private sector for highly talented employees. Building a culture of continuous learning, growth mindset, and enhanced training opportunities will ensure that people who chose to work with in the federal FM community will be career-focused and less inclined to leave the government for the private sector. The CFOC will strive to support the current workforce with the best career and professional development opportunities and resources available. As more data continues to be incorporated into the decision stream, the CFOC must proactively identify the critical skills, competencies and roles required to ensure data-driven decision making [is] the hallmark of all financial management decisions.”
This is why the RFI seeks to create an easy to use marketplace where financial management employees at all levels can obtain training and education from industry and federal providers that meet the needs of today and tomorrow.
Farley said the marketplace will serve about 140,000 members of the federal financial workforce. Farley added the need for the training and to create an easy place to find approved education courses came from a series of conversations and polls with agency financial management leaders and employees. He said the CFO Council members are excited for the marketplace.
“We’re looking for folks with strong virtual delivery capabilities. We need it to be scalable. We recognize the need that we have to upscale our training. We were told, ‘hey, give us a solution that is feasible in a very short amount of time, with no upfront funding and works with industry directly. So that’s what we are doing,” he said. “This is not a fairly a typical RFI. We’re not going through a traditional procurement strategy. We’re looking to partner with industry and with academia in a way that I wouldn’t say hasn’t been done before. We’re looking for providers that have got the reputation to be able to provide this sort of content that aligns well with the needs of our financial management community.”
Farley said the CFO Council, GSA, the Office of Management and Budget and others partners will talk to use the RFI responses to set up meetings with providers and pick 6-to-12, maybe more, to serve as the initial set of providers.
“We’re looking at getting this off the ground fairly quickly. We’re looking to select the providers somewhere in the January timeframe and to have this thing launched in February to March,” he said. “The one thing that makes us a little different than other efforts is we are not building a learning management system. We’ve got a set of core competencies from the financial management committee about 54 knowledge, skills and abilities that we’re looking to have content on the site.”
Agencies would come to the site to find these qualified providers and pay for the training using a government credit card or another way.
“By doing it this way, we don’t need any upfront funding and it saves us the trouble of trying to manage this huge system. It saves us the expense and again, it puts the onus on the provider to say, ‘Hey, here’s my good content. Here’s what aligns, and we maintain it that way,’” Farley said. “The mechanism that we’re using is not some arduous acquisition process that sometimes scares providers away. We’re looking to be agile, and we’re looking to partner. It’s a really easy application process. We’re looking to make decisions in January and get content up hopefully February and March. Maybe it’s a bit ambitious, but let’s shoot for the moon and see how it goes.”