A May 2020 report from the Federal CIO Council on the future of the government IT workforce makes 10 new recommendations to improve the 21st century work environment, including better recognition for employees doing a good job and revamping the hiring process.

The CIO Council acknowledges that with the push for IT modernization and implementation of emerging tech, leaders must ensure that they are building a workforce that can manage and support the changing environment. As more of the government workforce hedges closer to retirement, new workers with the skills to adjust to the IT landscape will have to be hired that embrace new tech such as the use of collaborative technology to communicate seamlessly in the workplace.

Hiring these new folks will require cooperation between IT subject matter experts and human resource professionals, per the report, to meet the skills requirements and bring in highly qualified, diverse IT talent. The CIO Council writes that the “arcane nature” of the Federal hiring process can be daunting, and IT job seekers require a modern workplace culture, so pilot programs in the tech field have been an effective way for the Federal government to innovate its hiring processes.

To improve the hiring process, the Federal CIO Council recommends that the government leverage commercial hiring platforms, job fairs, and hackathons to attract IT talent. Generally, the hiring process should look more like industry standards, the report notes. Recruiting efforts can be expanded through already existing pilot programs as the council wrote that some of the greatest IT workforce successes came from the small, agile teams able to innovate through these programs. Once proof of concept is demonstrated, innovative recruiting programs should be scaled, the report recommends.

The Fed IT workforce should have its own pay scale, in lieu of the General Schedule system, that adapts to the pace of technological change to keep up with the shifting responsibilities of IT employees, the CIO Council recommends. Compensation for entry- and senior-level IT positions in the Federal government lag behind the private sector, according to the report’s findings, and a new pay scale system would solve that paradox to incentivize individuals to work for the government.

The CIO Council also recommends a competency-based classification model as a common framework to define the makeup of the IT workforce and leveraging flexible office and telework options to meet IT professionals where they live, instead of relocating to the National Capital Region. The highest-performing members of the Fed IT workforce should also receive recognition for their work by revamping the workplace culture with modernized performance management and evaluation, the report recommends.

The CIO Council notes strengths in public-private partnerships when it comes to boosting the IT workforce. According to the report, both industry and the Federal government have benefitted from IT workforce-focused partnerships and exchanges such as contractors providing agility and expertise in niche tech fields. When government IT contracts are managed by acquisition officers and project managers with training specific to the technology, the report states, “taxpayers get the best value.”

Interdisciplinary procurement teams with practical, hands-on experience managing modern tech solutions, the council wrote, would improve productivity and knowledge sharing. Data about the Federal IT workforce should be compiled and compared to the private sector to track long-term trends and gain a better understanding of inputs and outcomes, according to the report. In its recruiting efforts, the Federal government should also try to hire more technical subject matter experts with project manager training to oversee government contracts. The recommendations also acknowledge that intragovernmental IT workforce changes may be a better fit than involving the private sector in some situations, such as if resources are limited or knowledge transfer between Federal employees is important.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.