How analytics can help agencies survive a post-election hiring freeze

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There is much uncertainty about the incoming White House administration. So it is prudent to avoid “taking sides” politically while approaching the near future in a very straightforward, pragmatic manner that deals with facts as opposed to fretting about “what ifs?”

Given this, here’s what we know about our next president, Donald Trump: In October, he called for a federal hiring freeze that would affect all but military, public health and public safety agencies. According to Don Kettl, a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, this is one position which the president-elect has “staked out” for his platform.

“[Trump] is moving forward with this hiring freeze and then perhaps moving to the Republican plan of replacing, say, one out of every two or three people who retire,” Kettl said.

Obviously, the development would significantly impact federal Chief Human Capital Officers and their teams. With massive baby boomer retirements underway and ongoing struggles to recruit millennials, a freeze would only present greater challenges in making available all of the skill sets required to achieve critical strategies. Both the size and the quality of the government workforce prove especially essential now as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management seeks to modernize IT systems and reform the acquisition process.

Again, without taking a political position, HR leaders should proactively incorporate organizationwide workforce planning – as supported by currently available talent analytics – to prepare for the changes. Through workforce planning, you align your agency’s priorities with personnel management to ensure legislative, regulatory, service and production objectives are met. Here are three ways to pursue this:

  1. Flag talent gaps — Hiring freeze or not, you should always establish a level of visibility which reveals whether you have the people in place to perform vital functions. Analytics tools enable you to “see” where gaps have emerged, so you can adjust workforce planning accordingly – perhaps, in light of a freeze, investing in more training to qualify existing staffers for new, needed roles.
  2. Forecast retirements — If you don’t know what’s coming, you’ll never adequately prepare for it. With analytics, you take a deep dive into demographics data to assess where to expect the most departures in a month, year, three years and five years from now. Even if there is a freeze, it is not likely to last forever. A reliable, analytics-supported retirement forecast will help you come up with short-term responses to address immediate vacancies, while building successful strategies for the long haul.
  3. Monitor risk — Analytics can drive toward the often-underexposed “land mine” risks that exist throughout the talent-management spectrum. With a hiring freeze, for example, every recruitment investment matters that much more … Are you defeating your own efforts because you’re keeping highly valued candidates “on hold” indefinitely, by not regularly staying in touch and giving job opening status updates after they’ve completed their interviews? Analytics and workforce planning will identify such logjams so you can apply corrective measures through, say, automated reminders to send candidates a “heads up” via email or text.

When it comes to workplace morale, analytics solutions combine with workforce planning to get to the core of satisfaction surveys, to pinpoint which business areas/job categories/demographic subsets exhibit the most engagement and which suffer from the least. With this, you develop best practices from the “haves” here to benefit the “have nots.” Similarly, analytics and workforce planning helps you identify and tackle risks associated with onboarding, training, succession planning and a host of other HR topics.

As indicated, no one really knows what’s in store for 2017 and beyond. But you should know what your agency’s state of present-day and future talent management looks like. Thus, if President Trump and his executive team mandate changes, you’ll have already developed a strong sense of likely impact, and implement effective workforce planning tactics to limit any potential negative outcomes.

That’s not a “political” position. It’s a wise one – one which can empower your organization to perform at its best for many administrations to come.

Joe Abusamra is vice president at Acendre, a provider of federal integrated talent management software, including award-winning workforce planning and people analytics solutions to improve workforce performance.

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