In the President’s Management Agenda, issued in March, President Trump called on the Federal government to modernize the Federal workforce. In the months that followed, the Federal government has made significant progress on the cross-agency priority (CAP) of workforce improvement, but still has a ways to go, according to an update released yesterday on

The 21st Century Workforce CAP goal identified three primary subgoals:

  • Improving employee performance management and engagement;
  • Reskilling and redeploying human capital resources; and
  • Enabling simple and strategic hiring practices.

Improving Employee Performance Management and Engagement

Agencies were given a series of deadlines to improve employee performance management and engagement. First, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) instructed agencies to “identify work units targeted for employee engagement improvement” and had to “provide a brief overview of the approach the agency and each component/bureau will take to reach the 20 percent improvement by November 15. Throughout 2019, agencies will have to meet a series of accountability deadlines to ensure that they are actually following through and improving. The update highlighted how agencies are working to improve management and engagement. Agencies have implemented a wide variety of measures, including handouts, a video series, and training seminars. Some agencies are also employing data analytics and gamification to meet their goal.

On a government-wide level, OPM also surveyed Federal agencies to identify successful tools and best practices, so they can be shared with other agencies. OPM said it is currently analyzing survey results. It also revamped the “approach to Senior Executive Service (SES) certification process which assesses the SES performance management process by shifting the emphasis from operational compliance to a strategic partnership in which OPM will assist agencies in achieving performance management excellence.”

Reskilling and Redeploying Human Capital Resources

The Federal government is turning to technology to achieve its second goal. The update noted that the National Science Foundation launched the Career Compass Challenge, which is a “$100,000 cash prize competition for researchers, educators, developers and private sector to spark the best thinking in development of a reskilling tool to prepare employees for current and future career opportunities.” Additionally, the team tasked with spearheading the subgoal also developed a survey to understand what career-pathing applications already exist in the Federal government. According to the update, “29 agencies responded, and more than 80 percent of responses indicated that they were providing career paths information to their workforce or intended to start in the near-term.” OPM has also rolled out, or is rolling out, a number of initiatives to help agencies better understand their workforce needs and prepare reskilling materials to retrain existing employees.

Enabling Simple and Strategic Hiring Practices

The Federal government is known for having a complicated hiring process, but the CAP goal is looking to streamline that. Back in October, OPM held a workshop for agencies and human capital experts to develop recruiting and retention strategies specifically for IT and cybersecurity talent. Additionally, OPM has authorized new direct hire appointing authorities for agencies. Agencies can use the new authorities to “immediately to hire for a variety of Scientific, Technical, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) positions, as well as cybersecurity and related positions which have identified severe shortages of candidates and/or critical hiring needs.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.