IT Is On Human Capital Officers' Minds

Recruiting and retaining top technology professionals is one concern.

IT issues are of key concern to agency chief human capital officers, including recruiting and retaining top technology professionals and better standardizing human resources IT systems, according to a new report.

The “Bracing for Change” report, released Thursday by the Partnership for Public Service, found that jobs in mission-critical occupations like science, technology and engineering are of particular concern to agency HR leaders, in large part thanks to hiring delays and lack of funding to fill vacant positions. The majority of CHCOs (72 percent) said they anticipate workforce reductions due to budget cuts.

Reforming the federal General Schedule pay system was one of the main issues CHCOs said would need to be resolved to effectively attract mission-critical workers like IT professionals to government. The clear consensus among CHCOs is that the GS system should be abolished in favor of a govermentwide, pay-banded system, but most cautioned that any changes would require significant upfront investment and a commitment from managers to execute it well.

“The CHCOs also agreed about much of what they consider  to be wrong with the current GS pay and classification system, including that it is not market-based and therefore does not align with pay-setting practices in private industry,” the report states. “The demand for qualified applicants for jobs in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine far exceeds the supply, leaving agencies at a severe disadvantage if they cannot pay competitively when trying to bring in and retain top talent.”

While recruiting for mission-critical fields like technology is a tall task for most CHCOs, many agreed that the Obama administration’s hiring reform efforts are coming along and having a positive impact. The majority (59 percent) gave themselves a B grade on their progress on hiring reform, and most CHCOs said that programs like diversity initiatives and the Pathways Programs were advancing on a good course. Some said they also though the USAJOBS website was improving after a rocky start at the time when OPM assumed control from the commercial vendor that supported the site. 

CHCOs across the board also recognized the importance of creating more standardized HR IT systems to ensuring workforce data would be comparable across agencies. Many CHCOs also noted the importance of using data analytics as a predictive tool, particularly in areas like retirement and succession planning. But many still noted concern with the number of HR IT systems, as many systems are out of date and it is difficult to get staff and funds for updating them. One CHCO estimated that it can cost a large agency $100 million to refresh its HR systems.

Meanwhile, CHCOs also noted that workforce policy changes like those implementing telework could particularly help drive changes for agencies facing budget cuts or other challenges. “Our strategy is to focus on innovation as our guiding principle,” one CHCO stated in the report. “We want a mobile and agile workforce. We have rolled out a ‘work from anywhere’ task.”