June 27, 2017

Can the government get ahead of its workforce shortage?

tomas okeefeBy Tomas O’Keefe
Market Intelligence Consultant
immixGroup, an Arrow Company


As baby boomers continue to retirement, federal agencies are working on making their work environments more appealing to the next generation of workers.

It means the federal workforce will have more options like being able to work part-time on innovative initiatives of their choosing and working in offices that look more like Google and Facebook than a federal agency.

This opens up an opportunity for companies with mobility solutions that have powerful security behind them, as well as apps that foster better communication and collaboration. It also means the federal agencies will be more open to tech solutions that may have previously never had a chance. Make sure innovation is part of your conversation.

The Obama administration had driven this initiative to develop innovative models for improving workforce effectiveness. So far the push to make government careers more appealing to the next generation has not gone away under the Trump administration.

The two agencies leading the charge are the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration (GSA). Here are four changes to watch:

  1. Innovative projects: OPM, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, is running GovConnect, an agile workforce initiative that helps federal employees explore innovative projects that not only excite them, but also nets rewards for their organizations. Employees can develop expertise and professional skills part-time as they work on projects posted by managers at their agency or within another federal agency; they can launch micro-projects after identifying a need and assembling part-time teams; and they can work for an agency or government-wide on projects on an as-needed basis.
  2. New office design: You won’t find any hard-walled offices or rows of cubicles at GSA’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. The design is open and more adaptable—each person has less “assigned” space so colleagues can meet more informally, gather and exchange ideas, plug in and collaborate, or unplug and concentrate. As business needs change, the space changes with it by easily redefining areas. GSA has started sharing its design strategies with other agencies.
  3. Non-traditional technology: Government is turning more and more to tech solutions widely used in the private sector. Everything from APIs and tools for better customer engagement to handwriting recognition technology and mobile tools for specialized workforces like the federal government.
  4. Recruitment: Agencies will also start new ways of recruiting IT talent, particularly people with cybersecurity skills—something lacking within government. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is launching a bonus incentive program that pays up to 25 percent on top of someone’s current salary based on their certifications and work experience. DHS leadership is also starting to work more closely with universities that have cybersecurity programs designated as Centers of Excellence by DHS and the National Security Agency.

Federal agencies are changing their work environments and cultures to recruit the next-generation workforce. It means the new federal worker will have more opportunities to work on innovative projects, work from anywhere, and use technology their peers in the private sector are already benefiting from.

Editors Note: This post originally appeared June 16, 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.