U.S. government urged to recruit ‘aggressively’ in face of retirement boom

By on 23/06/2016 | Updated on 24/09/2020
'A pivotal moment for the senior executive service' a report published by Partnership for Public Service argues, “agencies need to aggressively recruit and hire a diverse, highly qualified group of individuals.”

U.S. government departments should “aggressively recruit and hire” people into the public service as a “retirement boom” is looming and not enough lower-ranking officials are showing interest in moving up to higher levels of government, according to a new report.

‘A pivotal moment for the senior executive service’ published this week by Partnership for Public Service – a nonprofit, nonpartisan Washington D.C.-based organisation whose mission is to inspire a new generation of public servants and transform the way government works, states that some 85% of America’s 7,000 most senior public servants will become eligible for retirement over the next ten years.

With this prospect, it argues, “agencies need to aggressively recruit and hire a diverse, highly qualified group of individuals.”

It suggests that agencies should “use strategic workforce planning to anticipate future SES openings; identify and groom high-potential employees” from lower levels of the civil service’ and use “more sophisticated screening and interviewing techniques to identify and hire the highest-quality candidates.”

Currently, the report says, “only about half of current GS-14 and GS-15 employees [the ranks just below the senior level] across government expressed interest in advancing into the Senior Executive Service, Senior Level, or Scientific or Professional positions.”

Measures the study proposes, to strengthen culture, recognition and prestige of the SES, include celebrating SES accomplishments “publicly through interactive events and forums.”

The study also criticises the government’s performance management system, which it says is “implemented inconsistently across government: for example, at one Cabinet-level agency, 92.4% of career senior executives received a “5” in 2014 – the highest performance rating available – compared to just 19.3% at another [agency].”

To strengthen senior executive performance management, the report recommends evaluating performance “based on quantitative results linked to the agency’s mission and qualitative feedback”; conducting “frequent performance conversations, supported by data and examples”; and integrating results from performance reviews into succession management and talent development processes.

A spokesperson for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – the government agency which manages the public service, said: “OPM welcomes the Partnership for Public Service’s report on the Senior Executive Services (SES) – the recommendations outlined in the report dovetail closely with efforts currently underway through the President’s Executive Order (EO) on Strengthen the Senior Executive Service, which was issued on December 15, 2015.

“OPM is collaborating with Federal agencies all across the government to fulfill the Executive order and to continue to provide the tools and guidance needed to recruit, retain and develop the Federal Government’s senior leaders. OPM’s work includes both SES and other senior leaders.”

OPM has done significant work to implement the EO, the spokesperson added:

“We have convened a President’s Management Council (PMC) Subcommittee to advise OPM, the PMC, and the President on senior executive matters, help monitor the execution of the actions in the EO, and to help keep the Federal Government’s executive management practices current and effective.

“OPM has issued guidance to help agencies implement the requirements of the EO, including on: SES rotations; SES onboarding; and streamlining the SES hiring process.

“Agencies are making good progress on implementing the requirements of the EO and OPM is currently working with agencies on a number of initiatives, including helping them to implement their two-year plans for SES rotational assignments; examine SES hiring processes and identify ways to make these processes more efficient and effective, and less burdensome for applicants and agencies; and establish annual talent management and succession planning processes to assess the development needs of all SES, and to inform readiness decisions about hiring, career development, reassignments and rotations.”

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About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.


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