OPM has a new team of Tigers to help agencies overcome federal hiring demands

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Everything is on deck for agencies trying to recruit staff and meet the talent demands of a new infrastructure law, as well as the usual hiring needs that come with succession planning.

Internally, the Office of Personnel Management assembled a team of Tigers, made up of approximately 30 people from the agency’s policy, oversight and HR solutions stores, to focus on these federal recruiting efforts. intensive across government.

“We have organized ourselves within the agency to be able to respond and support the work that will be necessary for us to fulfill the mission of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act”, said Friday the director of the OPM, Kiran Ahuja, in a virtual chat with the National Academy of Public Administration. “We will help agencies align their leadership, survey their respective workforce to identify needs, plan sourcing and recruitment, integrate hiring flexibilities and streamline their talent search processes. “

Some agencies already needed to hire more staff before the infrastructure law became a mission requirement, the Biden administration said, but those needs have become more acute now.

“This means that agencies will have to hire thousands of federal employees in a very short period of time,” Ahuja said. “We recognize this is a unique opportunity to replenish the federal workforce and recruit the next generation of public servants.”

The OPM is part of the multi-agency working group tasked with implementing the new government-wide infrastructure law, along with the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior , Labor and Transport, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

OPM’s Tiger team will help each of these agencies develop their own talent plans, Ahuja said.

“It’s really a complete overview of what’s going on in the branches, and it’s going to take in real time where they already are and the needs they already have, in addition to these offices that they have to build,” she declared. noted. “I will also say that we are looking at the positions that will need to be filled in all the agencies, like the human resources specialists or the grants or contracting specialists, efforts that we can do more at the government level.”

OPM itself has onboarded more than 340 new employees in the past fiscal year, Ahuja said. The agency has lost some high-level expertise in recent years due to the uncertainty of the previous administration’s proposed OPM-GSA merger.

“We are working very hard to make sure that not only are we in good shape, but we are in good shape to serve each agency and to make sure they have the tools and support they need,” Ahuja said. “One of my top priorities as a director is to elevate OPM as a strategic human capital partner for the federal government. “

For OPM, that means creating tools and resources to help agencies be successful at their own recruiting. It released a new talent growth playbook and a guide from the Federal Hiring Authority last week, which also detail a handful of recent policies OPM finalized in the past year.

These new policies include a regulation allowing agencies to rehire former federal employees in positions above their departure from the government, as well as three other rules on easier hiring of students, recent graduates and spouses of military personnel.

OPM also sent agencies a strategic hiring questionnaire to get a better idea of ​​their workforce needs, Ahuja said.

“The goal is not just to build a federal workforce that meets today’s challenges; it’s really about laying the groundwork for a federal government that will allow Americans to fight for decades to come, ”she said.

Additionally, OPM will launch a dedicated USAJobs.gov landing site where job seekers can find positions related to the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Ahuja has often spoken of his goals to attract more talent early in his career to government. Those efforts include improving the Pathways internship program, a message she reiterated on Friday and described as a priority until 2022.

“We’re going to refresh the Pathways program and really try to renew and reinvigorate our relationships with colleges, trade schools and other educational institutions,” she said. “We have worked with Pathways for 10 years. I know he’s had his challenges for sure, so it’s time for us to really assess and make some of those improvements. We are also exploring the possibility of creating a central internship portal on USAJobs to publicize federal internship and scholarship programs, including those hosted by third parties.

The Pathways program was the subject of a new bill that Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Chair of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, introduced last week. The bill would require the OPM to create a centralized federal portal for internships, but Ahuja did not comment directly on the legislation.

The Presidential Management Fellowship, another component of the Pathways program, has undergone some changes. Ahuja said the OPM has seen a 20% increase in the number of applications for the PMF program this year.

“We’re thrilled because it correlates with a great effort we’ve made among the agencies to really make sure these fellows have a place to land,” she said.

At the same time, the OPM and the Office of Management and Budget will also establish a new hiring assessment business line, a development that the Biden administration teased in the president’s request for the 2022 budget.

“We will focus on supporting talent teams in agencies, sponsoring innovations in hiring and helping agencies to effectively strengthen their hiring reviews, as well as the work we will do around emergency hiring, ”Ahuja said of the new Enterprise line.

Ahuja acknowledged that some agencies will need help, especially in the area of ​​compensation, to attract new employees with particular skills in a tight labor market.

The OPM under the Trump administration wanted to pursue an overhaul of the pay and classification system, efforts that failed when attention to the proposed merger took center stage.

Today, OPM strives to ensure that agencies are aware of the tools and special permissions they can now use to reward new talent with particular skills.

“It’s a longer and bigger effort to continue, which doesn’t mean we wouldn’t,” Ahuja said of the broader pay and classification reform efforts. “But what we realize is that agencies often don’t use the tools they have in front of them, which are special rates of pay, recruit / retention rates, critical rates of pay. “

She teased “a fairly bold set of legislative ideas” on federal hiring, compensation and other talent management issues, “which are ongoing within the OPM internally.

“There is such positive energy. This doesn’t mean we can’t think about perfection, but what is there in front of us that we can correct and improve in real time? Ahuja said. “We are mindful of the time we have and really show these short term successes to capitalize on the long term systematic change that we aspire to as well. “

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