As the private sector experiences an unexpected wave of employee resignations, some federal officials believe that this Great Resignation may bypass federal agencies. But Monica Breidenbach, who is the human capital strategist at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), has warned that mass resignations and looming talent shortages should be a concern for federal agencies. On the Data Reveal podcast, during which a Great Resignation in the federal workforce was discussed, Breidenbach said, “If we really look back, we see that it was always coming.” To prepare for this, Breidenbach advised that federal agencies look toward data modernization to drive job accessibility and diversity, Gen Z recruitment, and workforce skills development.
According to Breidenbach, federal data modernization is still in its early stages, which means data is not yet able to inform strategic decisions in hiring processes. But centralizing HR data across federal agencies and departments can provide a holistic look at how effectively new job postings are reaching recent graduates, disabled people, veterans, or even the general public, as much hiring and recruiting across the federal space happens internally. Applying to federal jobs is an arduous process that often occurs on dated technology, while federal hiring practices have long been criticized for biases and difficult entrance. Without data to understand these challenges, agencies don’t have a clear picture of the ways in which they may be limiting reach and accessibility, ultimately hindering both long-term recruitment and workforce diversity.
Breidenbach also emphasized the need to develop recruiting efforts that target younger generations. Gen Z workers have nomadic expectations for work, while federal agencies have been slow to adopt flexible work and telecommuting policies. Gen Z workers are also more likely to want to work in lateral organizational structures, whereas the federal space is historically very hierarchical. This means that a culture shift in the federal space is necessary to attract younger workers. However, while much data exists on Gen Z’s expectations for entering the workforce, little data exists to examine and inform where the federal government needs to adjust to prepare for them.
Lastly, Breidenbach said that data literacy as a skill has not been accurately identified. The federal government has shown a tendency to expect data literacy as a native skill, while this is a broad discipline that needs to be broken down into granular and quantifiable skillsets. In order to fill talent shortages and invest in efficient training programs, agencies need to be able to identify the exact skills that are needed. When asked how data literacy could be quantified, Breidenbach said that this rests in continuing to digitize federal processes and modernize federal data. With more digital tools, agencies have greater ability to quantify and visualize data skills across the organization.
As a nationwide talent shortage continues to grow, and the number of job vacancies in the federal government increases, Keith Krut, NASA’s chief of people analytics, described what federal agencies are experiencing as a “great reevaluation” of the federal workforce – a period of transformation where federal employees are reexamining what they want from their careers, and federal agencies are making changes to respond to these wishes. This is an opportunity to leverage data to assess how new policies and hiring procedures can adapt to the changing needs of the prospective workforce, while improving employee retention and efficiency.
To hear more of Breidenbach’s insights on how federal hiring practices can benefit from data modernization, click here to listen to the Data Reveal Podcast episode “Creative Disruption for the Next Federal Workforce with Monica Breidenbach”.