What Really Grinds Federal IT Managers’ Gears? Try the Hiring Process

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The CIO Council has just wrapped up a survey of the IT workforce about its frustrations with the federal hiring process.

Anecdotes abound about how the convoluted federal hiring process thwarts efforts to get top tech talent into government.

Now, officials at the Office of Management and Budget and Federal Chief Information Officers Council want some hard data.

The council’s workforce committee has just wrapped up a survey of the IT workforce as well as federal human-resources chiefs about their frustrations with the federal hiring process.

Officials hope to use the data to look at the challenges plaguing the federal IT workforce, including hiring, recruiting and attempting to get high-skilled staffers to resist the lure of more extravagant salaries in the private sector and stay in federal service.

The purpose of the survey is “to identify opportunities to sharpen the federal IT workforce,” according to a Feb. 17 blog post on CIO.gov.

“In the digital age in which we live, there are few reasons why anyone should act before collecting and analyzing data,” Transportation Department Chief Information Officer Richard McKinney said in the post. “The tools are there, and they’re easy to use. Bring on the knowledge.”

Apart from hiring, federal IT managers face no shortage of other workforce issues. Chief among them: an increasingly dissatisfied workforce.

Among other “mission-critical” occupations across government -- a designation that also encompasses economists, HR specialists and auditors -- IT specialists had the lowest engagement and satisfaction scores, according to the most recent version of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey published by the Office of Personnel Management in October.

Earlier, a joint Grant Thornton-TechAmerica survey, published last June, revealed IT managers’ struggles with staffing cuts.

Half of IT managers queried indicated workforce issues -- training, recruitment and retention -- remained their biggest challenge.

“Even when resources are available, there is a shortage of workers with the skills needed to manage new programs and technology,” the report stated

Many IT managers expected their workforces would continue to shrink. The survey reported managers were bracing for the departures of anywhere from 20 percent to 70 percent of their IT workforce.

“The long waits for hires, the cumbersome processes and the lack of modern technology only make the other challenges of filling vacancies and planning for turnover more difficult,” the report concluded. “Reform is necessary if CIOs are going to meet their goals.”

The redoubled effort to untie “knots” in the hiring process -- as OPM chief Katherine Archuleta has put it -- is especially timely.

The Obama administration is in the midst of a planned hiring blitz aimed at getting more techies into government. The White House’s 2016 budget plan proposes creating 20-person in-house digital teams at the 25 largest federal agencies.

Applicants for the U.S. Digital Service, as it’s known, can bypass the outmoded USAJobs site and instead apply using a streamlined sign-up form on the White House website.

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)