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Posted by on Dec 15, 2016

The Presidential Transition and Beyond: HR Skills for an Even Stronger Federal Workforce

The Presidential Transition and Beyond: HR Skills for an Even Stronger Federal Workforce

All hands in.With the Presidential transition approaching, change is around the corner for over 4 million civilian and military employees in the Federal government. As in any organization, HR’s function is to support transitions in a way that maintains a ready and productive workforce. The Presidential transition, like other leadership transitions, presents both opportunity and uncertainty. Here are 5 challenges and opportunities for leadership and HR to take on in the coming months.

Unsettled Employees amid Change

Some people are uncomfortable with change—actually, most of us are. Change brings uncertainty, and it’s easy to overestimate the negative emotions we might experience as a result of change we think we do not want. It’s important for employees to have an opportunity to openly ask questions and voice concerns. Equally important is for managers and the transition teams to build trust, honesty, and address immediate concerns.

Engagement and Motivation

Data from the Merit Systems Protection Board research indicates that public sector employees are, on average, highly motivated by public service. Civil service work is in theory nonpartisan—it serves the public. Although change and uncertainty can feed into anxiety about the future and uncertainty about the direction of one’s organization, the ultimate goal of serving the public remains in place. Remind your team that that aspect of the work is not changing, and all civil servants have a responsibility to serve their stakeholder groups to the best of their ability.

Workload Management

If you’re part of a transition team, be aware of that rising workloads pose for increased stress and decreased engagement. In Management Concepts’ recent study on change management in the public sector, one of the most frequent challenges organizations face is the need to do more with less and balance larger workloads. As employees invest in learning about new initiatives or changes in their organization with the Transition, they’ll need to maintain continuity of operations. Prioritize the things that have a direct impact on the constituents your organization serves. This not only bolsters the organization’s results, but also provides something employees can remember to be proud of.

Training and Development

Investing in targeted learning opportunities among the existing workforce is one of the most effective ways to manage increased workload. Cross-train so that employees build their skills in different areas. Scale the workforce’s strengths in new subjects, so they’re equipped to be more knowledgeable, efficient, and adaptable in their roles.

Career Planning

This fall, I volunteered at the ACT-IAC Presidential Transition HR Forum, where one of the speakers (Ventris Gibson, Director of the District of Columbia’s Department of Human Resources) shared some useful advice—always have a plan B for your career. Be open to new opportunities that change may create—whether learning a new task, role, or department in your organization—observe as the change unfolds what additional opportunities you could be successful in.

Slow-to-hire organizations or those undergoing a moratorium on hiring experience transition in an amplified way—workforce planning will need to be revisited regardless of who’s appointed where, who’s coming, and who’s going. Post-election and the first several months of a new administration are dynamic times in the Federal government. Yet, when the transition challenges are effectively surmounted, teams band together, bright new leaders emerge, employees gain new experiences and perspectives, and everyone realizes new strengths.


Here’s to 2017, and a continuously hard-working Federal workforce!

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