The federal government was not immune to the pandemic-driven “Great Resignation,” particularly among younger workforce generations. According to a recent Deloitte report, the federal government has consistently seen higher quit rates among workers under 30. Furthermore, that report’s quit-rate-by-age data shows that workers in their 20s are five times more likely to quit than those in their 50s.

This has created recruitment and retention challenges for government agencies that, while familiar, are increasingly complex.

The Government Accountability Office puts forth a biennial list of federal operations that should be rethought or transformed. Strategic human capital management has appeared on that list since 2001. This consistent issue has forced agencies to reevaluate employee recruitment and retention and ask how the government can transform its hiring practices.

The Internal Revenue Service is one agency undergoing such a transition. Earlier this year, the organization released its Strategic Operating Plan that mapped out the agency’s priorities through 2024. Under the plan, the IRS is looking to hire more than 10,000 employees before the end of this fiscal year and approximately another 10,000 employees in fiscal year 2024.

For the IRS and other government agencies looking to rapidly and efficiently scale hiring efforts, hiring managers should seek out new automated technologies to replace legacy talent management solutions that prioritize the entire employee journey - from recruiting to performance management to succession planning.

Changing Dynamics of the Federal Workforce

From January 2020 to January 2022, the government lost more than 600,000 employees. While COVID-19 accelerated this group leaving the workforce, their departure was inevitable due to the age of these federal employees. In 2018, there were approximately 4.5 times as many government employees in IT roles over 60 than under 30, and by 2021, according to a survey of state and local government agencies, 38% indicated their retirement-eligible employees are accelerating retirement plans.

With an aging workforce, it is imperative to source new employees, especially younger talent. However, doing so will require government agencies to meet this new generation of workers on their terms – as the very people the government needs are also in high demand by the private sector.

As agencies work to find the right mix of talent, hiring managers and human resource specialists should lean into new solutions that help optimize and extend an employee’s tenure in the government.

The Holistic Employee Journey

Government agencies are embracing automation and technology-driven processes to improve the way they hire, train and retain top talent.

Automated talent management systems compile data from an employee’s entire work life cycle so that agencies can build a database of workplace information to better understand their employees and gain insights on how they can boost retention and improve performance. With these solutions, agencies can also combat knowledge loss as the aging workforce retires and retain key employees that drive organizational success.

There are seven key stages when it comes to automating talent management:

  • Attraction. This stage is about helping organizations bolster their recruiting and marketing efforts to boost applications and track referrals shared by current employees.
  • Recruitment. With the recruitment function, agencies can develop a more robust applicant tracking system that links with both external and internal career sites to create a holistic database of all applicants.
  • Onboarding. It is critical to create customized onboarding programs for individual employees to get them up to speed as soon as possible. These programs are individually tailored to what skills the employees already have and which ones they need to improve.
  • Development. The learning and development component tracks an employee’s career trajectory, including promotions and raises, as well as specific areas where employees are succeeding and what they need to improve on. This can then be referred back to ahead of the employee’s next review.
  • Retention. Engagement surveys are the crux of the retention model. They help leaders understand whether people are enjoying their time at work while also getting a better sense of where problems may lie and how they can be fixed.
  • Succession planning. This is a major resource for agencies with an older workforce as it allows them to map out a plan for employees that are ready to leave their current roles and then train up-and-coming stars or new hires to ensure operations continue smoothly.
  • Separation. Off-boarding surveys help paint an honest picture of that individual employee’s journey and their time working at the agency. This feedback offers validation for how agencies have been operating and how to improve moving forward.

These automated talent management solutions and prioritizing the holistic employee journey allow agencies to create a workplace culture in which employees want to be productive. Before the pandemic, many agencies defaulted to their legacy talent management solutions rather than investing in automation. However, COVID-19 fundamentally changed the way government agencies worked and also accelerated the aging workforce’s retirement. In the aftermath, agencies’ best bet to source new talent became deploying automated talent management services.

Agencies are beginning to see results from these new systems. In late April, Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, shared that the federal government has hired 80 new employees through the Cyber Talent Management system, a recently created platform that has been integrated across the entire Department of Homeland Security.

These new systems will continue to pay dividends as agencies become more accustomed to the technology. Implementing them not only facilitates improved retention and recruitment but also enables agencies to cultivate a database of all key employee feedback and data that can serve as a guide to building a better work culture at federal agencies.

April Behtash is Vice President of Talent Management at Aeyon, a provider of business system migration, Robotic Process Automation, program management and management consulting services.

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This article is an Op-Ed and the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email C4ISRNET and Federal Times Senior Managing Editor Cary O’Reilly.

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