Look to USDS for lessons on how to hire technology experts, new report says

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The federal government as a whole could learn some valuable lessons from the way the U.S. Digital Service hires technology experts, a new report asserts.

Mobilizing Tech Talent” — written by the Partnership for Public Service and two former heads of the USDS “people operations” team, Jennifer Anastasoff and Jennifer Smith — lays out all the benefits of the work done by USDS, 18F and the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and explains what the government can do to get more of this digital services talent in the door.

It’s heavy on examples of successful projects undertaken by these small digital services teams but maintains that the overall lessons learned are more generally applicable.

“Many examples provided are from projects that used technology to make government work better and cost less,” the authors write, by way of introduction. “However, the lessons from hiring and deploying individuals with technical expertise are broadly applicable to all types of government activities, including finance, performance management and scientific advancement.”

At the core of the report are seven strategies that, the authors say, can serve to “enhance the technical expertise in government.”

The government should: Hire, appoint and empower leaders with knowledge of modern technology; use private-sector best practices to recruit and hire tech talent; create the conditions for success; upgrade the technical skills and competencies of the existing workforce; build the brand and tell more stories; remove structural barriers and make operational excellence possible; and consider ideas for future exploration.

With each strategy, the report includes some concrete methods USDS has used to improve on the status quo. Government hiring, for example, is challenging across the board. It’s slow and bureaucratic, and all before the actual job has started. But USDS, through Schedule A short-term hiring authorities and a very active recruiting process, has managed to decrease the average number of days from application to job offer from 152 in the first quarter of 2015 to 34 in the second quarter of 2017.

Yes, hiring and supporting great technical talent in government is hard, the report concedes. But it’s not impossible.

“The single most important recommendation of this report is this: Leaders across the federal government must prioritize finding, hiring and supporting people with deep knowledge and experience in modern technology, and put them to work to meet the needs of the people,” the conclusion states.

Convinced? This report is here to help your agency get started.

-In this Story-

18F, hiring, Partnership for Public Service, Presidential Innovation Fellows, U.S. Digital Service
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