Sunday, August 2, 2015

When it Comes to Hiring, the Government Could Do a Better Job

If government is to continue to reform the hiring system, it needs to take on reform that focuses on what is important. This means systematically reengineering the process to ensure that the best candidates are hired in a timely and cost-effective manner. Reform should: (1) provide agencies the flexibilities they need to effectively manage their hiring systems, (2) ensure employees and applicants receive the protections promised by the merit system principles, and (3) give the public a high-quality government workforce working toward its interests. We offer the following recommendations to guide reform and improve the Federal hiring process. We believe these recommendations would be relevant to the improvements DoD is also seeking in its hiring process.

First, agencies should manage hiring as a critical business process, not an administrative function. Recruitment and selection is about making a continuous, long-term investment in attracting a high-quality workforce capable of accomplishing the organization's mission. It should not continue to be viewed therefore solely as an HR function. This means integrating discussions of hiring needs, methods, and outcomes into the business planning process.

Second, agencies should evaluate their own internal hiring processes, procedures, and policies to identify barriers to quality, timely, and cost-effective hiring decisions. Often, agencies put processes in place that extend the time it takes to make decisions without even realizing they have done so. Many agencies will probably be surprised to see that many of the barriers they face are self-imposed.

Third, we recommend that agencies, with the assistance of OPM, employ rigorous assessment strategies that emphasize selection quality, not just cost and speed. In particular, agencies should develop and use assessment instruments that have a relatively good ability to predict future performance. Using several assessment tools in succession can make the assessment process even more effective in managing the candidate pool and narrowing the field of qualified candidates. In addition, OPM can work with agencies to develop assessment tools that can be used for occupations that cut across agencies. This would increase the government's return on investment for these assessments.

Fourth, we also recommend that agencies improve efforts to manage the applicant pool while making the process manageable for applicants. This means better recruitment strategies, improved vacancy announcements, more communication with applicants, and a timely, understandable application and assessment process that encourages applicants to await a final decision rather than abandon the Federal job search in favor of employment elsewhere.

Fifth, we believe it is crucial that agencies properly prepare HR staff and selecting officials to carry out the full range of services necessary to implement an efficient recruitment and hiring system. If agencies devoted resources to ensuring HR staff and managers are prepared to carry out their hiring duties, this would likely significantly reduce bottlenecks in the process. In particular, hiring officials need more information about their role in hiring, the importance of using good assessment tools, the assessment tools available to them, and how to use the probationary period to alleviate selection mistakes.

Finally, OPM should work with agencies to develop a governmentwide framework for Federal hiring reform. This framework should provide agencies with the flexibilities necessary to address agency needs while also preserving selection quality and employee and applicant protections. The framework could streamline and consolidate appointing authorities to simplify hiring procedures and make the process more transparent and understandable for HR staff, selecting officials, and applicants.

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