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Upside to Shrinking Budgets? Innovation.

By Brittany Ballenstedt // June 19, 2014

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There is a bright side to shrinking budgets at federal agencies: They may just force employees to come up with new and innovative ways of doing business.

That’s according to Carissa Cutrell, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who told Wired Workplace last week that budget cuts and a crackdown on federal conference spending forced the agency to take a more innovative approach to engaging employees and stakeholders involved in the Student and Exchange Visitor program, which manages nonimmigrant students and their dependents and also certifies schools to accept international students.

While the agency previously reached out to stakeholders by traveling to both national and international conferences, budget cuts and the crackdown on conference spending made those trips less frequent. Instead, the agency began engaging stakeholders online, through online webinars, blogs and social media.

“Everyone encounters obstacles in their business activities; it’s hard to overcome those obstacles, but we developed a new solution,” Cutrell said. “We knew we had certain goals to meet, and this was just another way of meeting them.”

In lieu of going to conferences where the stakeholders are, ICE requests they instead meet online, and to much success: The agency’s 11 webinars ...

Lack of Telework Opportunities Makes Government Lose Out on Top Hires

By Brittany Ballenstedt // June 18, 2014

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Federal agencies have made progress in implementing telework as a flexible work strategy, but it may not be enough, new research suggests.

A report released Monday by Mobile Work Exchange, VMware and Carahsoft found 88 percent of human resources managers have had an employee leave because of the lack of telework opportunities. Another 54 percent say they at least occasionally miss out on the best job candidate because they cannot meet his or her telework requirements.

Those numbers are surprisingly high, particularly as many agencies often are considered leaders across all sectors on telework implementation.  

“There’s a competitive advantage for agencies to have a telework strategy, and this finding is a big red flag for agency managers,” Cindy Auten, general manager for Mobile Work Exchange, told Wired Workplace. “As more agencies in the federal government, state and local government and the private sector offer telework benefits, this number is going to be higher and the number of employees leaving is going to be higher.”

Doug Bourgeois, vice president of end user computing for the public sector at VMware and former CIO at the Patent and Trademark Office, said while recruitment and retention was not part of PTO’s original ...

Streamlined Hiring Key for Attracting IT Pros

By Brittany Ballenstedt // June 17, 2014

Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock.com

Free food, nap pods and on-site video games are not the only things that attract top IT workers to leading tech companies such as Google and Facebook. Network World reports a streamlined hiring and onboarding process also is valuable to these in-demand workers, so much that leading tech companies are stepping up their game in this area.

That could be a problem for the federal government.  

The federal government has long been criticized for its lengthy and cumbersome application and hiring process, and IT has been no exception. Top IT workers often face multiple job offers, so a federal hiring process that typically takes months to complete could mean agencies are missing out on the best of the best. Even specific personnel flexibilities such as direct-hire authority may not get the best candidates on the job quickly enough.  

“Managers that are hiring IT talent, they’re pickier than ever and they’re hurting themselves,” Jack Cullen, president of IT staffing firm Modis, told Network World.

The unemployment rate for tech professionals was 2.7 percent in the first quarter of 2014, compared to the overall U.S. unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, according to IT jobs website Dice.com ...

Agencies Graded B- on Mobility

By Brittany Ballenstedt // June 16, 2014

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The federal government has invested more than $1.6 billion in mobile technology initiatives for its employees, yet most have not realized the full potential of those programs, according to a new report.

The report, released Monday by Mobile Work Exchange, VMware and Carahsoft, found that 77 percent of the 154 federal IT mobility and human capital/telework executives surveyed give their agency a B or a C on progress toward the Digital Government Strategy. The strategy launched in 2012 to enable federal workers to access government information anywhere, anytime and on any device.

The B grade was because of a number of challenges, as just more than half (56 percent) of IT managers believe their agency is taking full advantage of mobility. The most common challenges were security concerns (47 percent), available funding (38 percent), culture (25 percent) and procurement (25 percent).

“The technology has moved at such a rapid pace that I think honestly it’s hard for IT managers to keep up with it,” Cindy Auten, general manager of Mobile Work Exchange, told Wired Workplace. “The technology is there, but they may not be able to mesh it well with the legacy systems.”

Despite those challenges, however ...

Should Federal Personnel Reform Start With IT?

By Brittany Ballenstedt // June 12, 2014

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The controversy at the Veterans Administration is reigniting a conversation about federal personnel reform that in recent years has been overshadowed by budget cuts, hiring freezes and sequestration.

Most experts contend that personnel reform should extend beyond the VA, however, to help a range of agency missions and skill sets that require key talent. A report released last week by TechAmerica and Grant Thornton found that the majority of federal chief information officers and other key tech officials believe IT workforce issues – including training, recruitment and retention – remain their biggest challenge, with one respondent noting they were “five years behind in terms of talent.”

With fierce competition with the private sector for skilled technology talent, is IT a good place to start for federal personnel reform?

That’s a question Wired Workplace posed to Tim McManus, vice president for education and outreach at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. There is a huge need in government for skilled IT talent, making it a natural fit for launching reforms of the decades-old federal personnel system, he said.

“We’re often asked the question, ‘Do you start with a single occupation or go governmentwide [with personnel reform]?’” McManus said. “The need is ...