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OPM may end hiring registers for lack of interest

Jul. 28, 2010 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Angela Bailey, the Office of Personnel Management's deputy associate director for recruitment and diversity, was one of those who attended the July 28 meeting at the White House.
Angela Bailey, the Office of Personnel Management's deputy associate director for recruitment and diversity, was one of those who attended the July 28 meeting at the White House. (Sheila Vemmer / Staff file photo)

The Office of Personnel Management said Wednesday that a component of its hiring reform initiative has received little interest from federal agencies and may be canceled.

In the first seven months of OPM's centralized hiring register program, agencies have only hired 71 of about 106,000 qualified job candidates, said Ted Cuneo, chief of staff for Angela Bailey, OPM's deputy associate director for recruitment and diversity.

Bailey and other OPM officials attended a meeting at the White House on Wednesday morning to discuss progress on hiring reform, Cuneo said, and one of the issues on the agenda was whether the registers should be canceled.

"OPM has been paying for [the registers] out of pocket," Cuneo said at the HR for Defense Summit in Tyson's Corner, Va. "This was a freebie, and it's not used much. … We can't continue doing this forever."

OPM in April announced the registers it established for 13 of the most common jobs in the federal government. Under the system, OPM advertises for jobs such as accountants, secretaries and contracting specialists, evaluates applicants, applies veterans preference points and ranks candidates. When a hiring manager needs to fill a slot, he tells OPM what skills he needs, and OPM will send him a list of suitable candidates.

OPM Director John Berry said earlier this year that by pooling hiring efforts through the registers, the government would eliminate duplicative work and cut as much as five weeks out of the process.

A similar effort failed during the Clinton administration because its paper-based process was unwieldy, and the quality of job candidates was poor.

This time, experts said that the registers' success likely would depend on whether OPM keeps promoting them and can convince agencies to try them.

But that is not happening. Cuneo said many frontline hiring officials are completely unaware the registers even exist, and he said OPM and agency leaders have to do a better job educating managers and human resources officials.

"Usually, when we ask, ‘Have you used a shared register?' you get a blank stare," Cuneo said. "There is a communication and marketing piece to this that not only we, OPM, have got to get better at, but the agencies' headquarters have got to get a lot better at as well."

OPM is also studying the program's results to find out whether any other factors are making people reluctant to use the registers.

Earlier this month, John Sepulveda, chief human capital officer of the Veterans Affairs Department, said he wanted to create new registers to pool the hiring of nurses and other medical staffers.

Cuneo said OPM may try to scale back the registers and only work at first with agencies, like VA, that have expressed definite interest in the concept.

"I don't know what our next step will be, but maybe one of those steps is to find those small pockets that see the value in them and leverage them to get some higher degree of success," Cuneo said. "Once we get that success, we go out to others who might be a little more skeptical, and say it worked for these guys. Sure you don't want to consider it?"

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