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Posted by on Oct 31, 2014

Federal Workforce Trends Not So Scary When You Have a Plan

ScaredAs GAO reported in its February 2013 High Risk update, agencies must integrate strategic human capital planning with broader organizational strategic planning  to develop the talent, skill, and experience mix required to cost- effectively execute mission and program goals. Most critical to the strategic human capital plan is the workforce planning that informs it.

Workforce planning has become so increasingly complex in the Federal Government, however, that it’s scarier than Freddy Kruger reading you a bedtime story. Why is it complex?

  • Invasion of the Boomer Snatchers: 31 percent of Feds will be eligible to retire by 2017, taking with them vast institutional knowledge, networks, and technical expertise. Experts have been expecting the retirement wave since 2012, but both a downgrade in economic circumstances and an upgrade in physical well-being have led to many Boomers working longer than they had initially planned. Once their boomerang children finally move out and their portfolios recover from The Great Recession, however, boomers are going to want to spend their time enjoying their retirement. A mass exodus is very difficult challenge in workforce planning. Including Phased Retirement programs as part of your workforce plan may be your secret weapon in combatting the brain drain.
  • The Skills Changeling:  The skills needed in Government are changing. The GAO reports “an increase in employment from 2004 to 2012 occurred within occupational categories that require higher skill and educational levels.” This trend is expected to continue as demand for professional occupations (e.g., doctors and scientists) and administrative occupations (e.g., financial and program managers) increases. Add to that cyber and the face of the Federal workforce is changing more quickly than ever before. HR professionals must not only account for the change in the workforce plan, but also consider how recruiting and retention needs may change.
  • Pennywise: The private sector has not been clowning around with salary increases and the Federal Government has not been keeping up, increasing the war for talent. According to Mercer’s 2014/2015 US Compensation Planning Survey, the average raise in base pay is expected to be 3.0% in 2015, up slightly from 2.9% in 2014, 2.8% in 2013 and 2.7% in 2012. According to the GAO, “Spending on total government-wide compensation for each full-time equivalent (FTE) position grew by an average of 1.2 percent per year…  In terms of employee pay per FTE, spending rose at an average annual rate of 1 percent per year.” Certainly, civil servants aren’t in it for the money, but total rewards matter. More than ever managers need to find non-monetary ways to motivate and reward employees.
  • The Incredible Shrinking Government: Government has had to do more with less for some time now and that trend will continue. BLS projects that the size of the Federal workforce will drop by another 13 percent over the next nine years. The United States population, however, is expected to continue to increase at about 0.77% a year, which is about 9% over the next nine years. The Federal Government will have fewer employees servicing more customers. This makes it imperative that HR has a workforce plan that has the right skills and the right mix of employees to maximize efficiency.
  • Child’s Play: The millennials aren’t children anymore and have their own unique generational identity. Millennials like Government work and value service, but they also thrive on change and are not likely to stay in the same position long, only an average of 3.8 years. Moreover, only 34 percent reported that they have opportunities to advance in Government. Human resources leaders need to present career paths to Millennials so they see the opportunity to have diverse work experience without leaving the Federal Government. According to a multitude of studies including PwC’s NextGen Study, millennials also value work-life fit differently than previous generations, which may require coaching to help them achieve their work-life goals. Human resources leaders need to adjust programs and policies to meet millennial’s needs or face high turnover, higher recruiting costs, and a less effective workforce.

So, given all these scary statistics, what’s an HR leader to do? The trick (or treat) is not to respond to every little fright. It’s all about having a plan. Your plan must:

  • Integrate with your agency’s overall strategic plan
  • Consider your agency’s constraints such as regulatory, budget, and technology
  • Identify the critical skills and competencies required both now and in the future
  • Incorporate talent management to address gaps in skills and competencies
  • Include organization development from culture change to structural changes if needed to address changing workforce requirements as well as the changing needs of the people who make up the workforce
  • Align all aspects of the Federal Human Capital Lifecycle from recruiting to rewards
  • Include both leading and lagging measures to evaluate the success of the plan
  • And, finally, have executive buy-in

Workforce planning isn’t so scary, after all! How is your organization preparing for the changing workforce planning environment?

Wishing you and your family a Happy Halloween and a wonderful Dia de los Muertos!

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