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

By on 23/06/2016 | Updated on 27/01/2022
'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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See also:

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The hat-trick: how to achieve savings, better services and public policy goals

Infrastructure investment gap could cost U.S. economy $4tr and 2.5m jobs, study warns

Proposed new rule gives people with criminal records ‘fair shot’ to join U.S. federal civil service

New performance management system to affect more than 600,000 U.S. civil servants

U.S. departments get direct authority to hire experts who can help fight Zika virus

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.


  1. jc says:

    ridiculous that they would take inexperienced new grads pay them a pretty salary in a high position.. that’s how things become corrupt.. happened many many times in many other countries, America – we are simply immature and naïve in our practices…

  2. Nick says:

    How about paving the path for already existing Federal Employees in the GS-10 – 12 range to get into leadership positions. Many employees in this range would like to step up into the roles, but have:
    – no constructive direction being provided (tell me what is needed and I will do it)
    – limited opportunity to advance
    – road block supervisors who have count down calendars to retirement; disinterested in the future of their organizations

  3. Mike Ladd says:

    Many GS-10/12’s do want to advance! Maybe the issue is the advancement of less qualified/educated formally and real work life field experienced people with less desire or ability to work in the private sector advancing because their in the “club” of:
    – After hours drinks with the supervisor to develop the culture which if your not a drinker is a problem
    – 30 minute early leaves for approved actions deemed worthy for some but not all
    – Higher APPAS for those few that are favored as they climb the GOV ladder while nauseating the rest of the team who carry the workload while the favored do less and less and socialize more and more
    – Lunches with the Supervisor where he only invites the same favorite few without ever asking the rest of the team to join.
    Great supervisors are not just trained but born with the ability to reach people and bring out the best in all of them for the betterment of the team. Any actions other than this are inappropriate and come with a high cost both morally and financially to our Government and challenge our way of life and yes even our democracy! We should be doing a better job of hiring our future leadership as the rest well follow their lead. The watches are in need of watching! Lots of wasted talent/corporate knowledge being left behind, what a waste. Stagnant leadership is to blame here, making a good argument why there should be term limits placed on leadership positions allowing new ideas and life experiences to percolate to the top all the way to National levels instead of the bottom of the preverbal swamp. Cronyism is alive and well, bet there are a lot of GS-10-12 worker bee’s who would like to advance if given a chance! God Bless AMERICA as it sure looks like we’re being set up for failure from within.

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