US government’s HR agency publishes ‘workforce of the future’ playbook

By on 28/02/2024 | Updated on 28/02/2024
A picture of OPM director Kiran Ahuja
Kiran Ahuja Photo: OPM

The federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has published a new ‘playbook’ outlining actions that agencies can take to revamp HR practices and strategically plan their future workforces.

Suggestions include greater use of data and artificial intelligence, more proactive recruitment methods, and an increased focus on career development.

The practical guide follows a vision document released by OPM last March for “a workforce of the future that is inclusive, agile and engaged, with the right skills to enable mission delivery”. This and the playbook aim to support president Biden’s goal, detailed in his Management Agenda, for the federal government to become “a model employer”.

In a memo to agency chief human capital officers accompanying the playbook, OPM director Kiran Ahuja said: “Some of the plays are new and some rely on existing authorities and practices that have not been fully utilised but, if implemented, will serve as the foundation for a future that sees improved effectiveness and efficiencies in the federal government.”

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Modernisation priorities

The Workforce of the Future Playbook highlights 12 priority areas: strategic workforce planning; strategic recruitment; skills-based hiring; pooled hiring/shared certificates; integration of AI technology; organisational health; employee health and wellbeing; data-driven workforce decisions; career pathing and employee development; early career talent; fostering an inclusive work environment; and inclusive outreach strategy.

For each of the 12 areas, there is a statement of ‘the play’ or proposed improvement, details of why it is important, and a summary of the current situation and an ideal future state. There are also examples of promising practice, useful tools and resources, calls to action for specific steps to take, and suggested metrics.

On strategic recruitment, for example, OPM emphasises opportunities for government agencies to learn from the private sector when it comes to proactively pursuing candidates, connecting through social media, and using more appealing job titles, rather than simply posting jobs with official titles and hoping applicants with the right skills will find them and apply. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for example, developed a corporate LinkedIn page to target diverse candidate pools for science and engineering roles. The Department of Veterans Affairs and NASA also use recruitment videos in job announcements to introduce applicants to the agencies and their unique missions.

Role for generative AI

The playbook also outlines potential for greater use of AI for some tasks to increase efficiency and performance, including using generative AI to improve hiring processes. The guide cites an example from the Air Force, which developed a Human Resources Apprentice pilot to help recruitment staff assess applicants against position requirements.

To improve diversity and inclusion, OPM encourages agencies to explore areas such as targeted recruitment, the use of data to identify barriers for candidates, and inclusive hiring processes.

It notes that: “Institutions perform better and best serve their clients and customers when they are diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible.”

OPM will also provide guidance on implementing the strategies through webinars, training and technical assistance from subject matter experts.

Read more: US government taps agencies for AI project ideas

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