Federal Recruiting: Is It Working?

It’s no secret that many Federal agencies struggle with recruiting candidates. Skills gaps and shortages of qualified applicants in mission critical positions such as cyber security and STEM positions are pushing some to ‘think outside the box’ when trying to recruit top talent the Federal sector. Good news, positive changes are taking shape — and will be highlighted here. However, some of the most impactful approaches that could apply to Federal recruiting have yet to reach the federal sector in a significant way. Recruitment advertising firms help many agencies position their recruitment brands as well as to increase awareness and exposure. That’s important progress that enables an agency to reach a broad candidate population. However, in meetings with Federal HR leaders, I’ve heard more times than I can count “attracting candidates isn’t a problem for us”, and the sentence that usually follows is, “our challenge is finding qualified candidates that meet the requirements and that our hiring managers want to select.” So, to address such challenges, many agencies hire contractors to help them with staffing and hiring. Is this all working? What’s missing? And, where can federal agencies adjust to get better outcomes? We’ll share some ideas in a moment. Steps in the right direction The serious nature of gaps in mission critical skill areas has brought increased attention to the topic and will continue to do so. Federal leaders compete for talent against the private sector, which is often regarded as more attractive due to higher pay, incentives like stock grants and signing bonuses, faster hiring processes, as well as appealing work with leading edge companies. Federal leaders are making positive steps in their push for significant change where they can do so, such as in the following ways: 4 tips for more effective federal recruiting and hiring While a variety of changes taking place over recent years are beginning to chisel away at the problems, perhaps the greatest opportunities reside in strategic advancements that have been happening in the private sector. If you’re still wondering where you should start, take a look at your data. What are the numbers telling you? Are you getting more and more applicants yet still taking the same amount of time or more to find the right people? Are you finding out which of those 5, 50, 250 or more candidates who are qualified and truly interested in working with you? Are you doing so quickly enough that you get the best candidates before they accept positions with the private sector or another federal agency? And, ultimately the big question – are your hiring managers delighted with the cert list provided them for selection? We’ll share some thoughts on workforce analytics in future blogs. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this last thought: “Mission-critical skills gaps within specific federal agencies as well as across the federal workforce pose a high risk to the nation because they impede the government from cost-effectively serving the public and achieving results,” the Government Accountability Office concluded in previous High Risk Report. Hopefully some of these ideas serve as a springboard for you, as you continue to tackle the important tasks of recruiting and hiring top talent in the federal sector. Over the next few months, we’ll tackle some of the tools and practices used by commercial organizations to ultimately hire and retain the best talent. If you’d like to stay connected to this information, sign up here to receive future blogs by email.

COVID-19 and Its Compounding Epidemic: Burnout

A 2016 study on employee burnout conducted by Kronos and Future Workplace show that out of 614 HR business leaders 95 percent of HR leaders agree that burnout affects employee retention. It may come as no surprise that those in HR can be some of the most stressed professionals in the workplace. You deal with tight deadlines and are tasked with putting on multiple hats on a daily basis. Now more than ever, HR employees are meant to be looked at as a compass in these trying times. What is Burnout? The term “burnout” was first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger where he described a set of symptoms that include exhaustion from excessive demands, headaches and sleepiness, closed thinking, “and quickness to anger.” “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Recognizing Burnout Much like many other mental illnesses, distinguishing between a temporary period of stress and an indefinite spell burnout is often times the most difficult yet crucial parts. While burnout isn’t a diagnose psychological disorder (yet) that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken as such. Now is more important than ever for HR professionals to pay attention to all aspects of self-care. With more professionals working longer hours and being tasked with greater demands, people need to have the ability to decompress, be able to ground themselves. Those that may be questioning if they are suffering from burnout should ask themselves: “A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.” (Wigert, B., & Agrawal, S., 2020, February 28, “Employee Burnout, Part 1: The 5 Main Causes.” https://www.gallup.com/workplace/237059/employee-burnout-part-main-causes.aspx) If you think burnout only happens in extremely bad work environments and other rare cases, I challenge you to think again. Add up the findings made by Gallup and you’ll find that nearly two-thirds of full-time workers are experiencing burnout on the job. Helping Employees With Work Overload When dealing with mental health, employers must recognize that despite it being against the law to punish employees based on their mental health, it is a sensitive subject to many people where they may be wary about speaking up about their mental health.

Employee Engagement: When Does It Start?

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to spend time with Brent Pearson, founder of Enboarder (and former Monster Government Solutions Managing Director) as he made his whirlwind tour through the US to talk with companies and federal agencies about the latest research in Employee Engagement and Onboarding. At an Enboarder and HRworx hosted breakfast event in DC, “Rethink Employee Engagement and Onboarding,” Brent highlighted the impact of Millennial’s in the workplace and what they expect from employers, and the role onboarding plays in the engagement process. The research has shown that for candidates being recruited, they reach a very high level of engagement around the point the offer is made, and it can rise and continue to rise through a positive onboarding experience with a connection to the hiring manager; or it can decline and continue to spiral downward with impersonal communications that are task focused. The graphic below depicts this disparity in new hire engagement depending on the type of preboarding and onboarding process experienced by the new hire. In a previous blog, Onboarding: Hiring Manager’s Playbook, I ask about whether there is a toolkit or ‘playbook’ for hiring managers to understand how important their direct involvement is in the onboarding process for building new hire engagement. What Does It Mean The research confirms a couple of things. Hiring Managers who seldom hire need coaching, guidance, or a toolkit to support them in being a great hiring manager to represent your organization well! Millennials expect a high degree of communication and want lots of details about the role, and also value being welcomed into an organization. During the breakfast event in October on Employee Engagement and Onboarding, Brent Pearson shared the type of communications that can easily be facilitated between new hires and hiring managers through Enboarder. Imagine if you were a hiring manager and you had a virtual coach prompting you throughout the preboarding process on communications that the new hire would enthusiastically welcome. The virtual coach also sends prompts via text or emails that are prepopulated with the information to make that manager look like a rock star. Virtual Coach for Hiring Manager: A message might say, “Great news Bob – your new hire, Angela, just accepted the offer and will begin on Nov 15! She might really like it if you congratulated her on accepting. If you’d like to call, click here (123) 456-7890 (prepopulated with new hire’s cell number) or if you prefer sending a text message, click here to send “Congratulations Angela. I just heard you accepted the offer and will be starting on 11/15. We’re looking forward to having you join the team!” Through a workflow developed for a particular role or position type, the Enboarder technology prompts hiring managers and other stakeholders to build engagement through communications during preboarding and onboarding. What I’ve heard about Employee Engagement from many agencies is that a) it’s a top priority to improve; and b) the focus is on current agency employees, and little is mentioned around onboarding and how it impacts new hire engagement. Maybe its time to ‘Rethink Onboarding’ and realize the onboarding process needs to be more than what we experienced as new hires entering an organization. Top 7 Ways to Rethink Onboarding If your agency doesn’t have an Onboarding Process for new hires that includes direction and assistance for the hiring manager to build new hire engagement through a Wow onboarding experience, make sure you’ve got the right tools and support in place for your hiring managers. With automation, you can ensure the tactical and compliance factors around onboarding are completed gracefully and reliably. Plus, an automated Onboarding system such as HRworx Onboarding, can easily be configured to automate each step of your onboarding process. I wish I could say that using tools such as those provided by Enboarder and HRworx would fix new hire engagement challenges and all problems would be resolved! Using a virtual coach for hiring managers is a great tool, but what about the day-to-day communications once the new hire has started? Its possible that hiring managers may need some training in how to manage millennials to help bridge the generation gap in terms of expectations and factors that drive them to excel and perform. Without question the breakfast event, Rethink Employee Engagement and Onboarding was insightful and the information provided made a solid argument for the importance of the onboarding process. If you heard about the event but were unable to attend and would like to see the materials, contact me for the presentation. Shout out to Brent Pearson from Enboarder and Rob Hankey from HRworx who allowed me to share the slides from the event. They are seeking agencies willing to pilot a new onboarding process to get clear ROI data demonstrating the positive impact on new hire engagement. If you’re interested in discussing a pilot, email me and I’ll get you in touch with the right people who can answer your questions and help you explore how to shape a 12-week pilot for positive ROI on new hire engagement. Till the next time, relook at your current processes and think about new approaches for employee onboarding!