HR in the Federal Government: A Changing Landscape Part I: Challenges and Solutions to HR’s Changing Priorities
Human resources (HR) are—simply put—the people who make up an organization and carry out the work that achieves the objectives of that organization’s mission. An HR department is tasked with managing those resources, ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations, and overseeing benefits and often recruitment.
But the field of HR is not a static one. As the workforce, the employment landscape, and the Federal environment change, so too must HR. After all, you know what they say…the only constant in life is change!
Despite the ever-changing Federal environment, in many cases and with many agencies, HR functions haven’t kept pace with this evolution. This fact is evident when you consider some of the biggest hurdles facing HR:
- Government organizations are facing increasing demands for improved performance.
- Agencies are under enormous scrutiny from Congress, inspectors general, the media, and the public, especially with the advent of social media.
- The centralization of HR in recent years has caused an outflow of experts from the field.
- Government attorneys have had more impact on the HR decision-making process, which has not always been for the better.
- The lack of accountability in government continues to be troubling.
So how can those in HR address these challenges and improve their performance?
- Moving Beyond Compliance. While compliance is key to an effective HR department, HR professionals need to look beyond compliance and focus on other activities and functions, such as change management, performance management, and process improvement
- Transparency. Given the highly connected, highly-visible environment we operate in (think social media, articles about the government, constant scrutiny), HR professionals should consider transparency as a vital component of success. Giving the public insight into operations and processes would go a long way in building and maintaining trust and reliance.
- Technology. The whole purpose of HR is to manage people. But technology plays a huge role in how people interact with the world. Tools and technology will become more prevalent as budgets shrink, workforces retire, and technology evolves more rapidly and becomes more available.
In addition, according to a 2018 GovLoop poll, the primary challenges for HR professionals were
- Training current employees (36%)
- Recruiting new talent (34%)
- Keeping track of information and systems (21%)
So what does this all mean for the future of HR in the government? The bottom line is that HR professionals will need to step up their game to get ahead of the curve on the above-mentioned challenges, especially as it relates to the integration of technology into the field. HR modernization is definitely the key priority in this equation. Stay tuned for my next blog post in this series, which focuses on the future of HR technology in the Federal Government.
Tara Ebrahimi is the Managing Editor at Management Concepts and has been with the company for more than 5 years. A writer, editor, and communications professional, her work has been published in numerous outlets, including the New York Times, Rapportage, and Outlook magazine.