Shutdown Aftermath – Same Federal HR Challenges, Now Magnified

Federal HR Challenges after Government Shutdown

Unfortunately, it doesn’t get easier from here.

With the partial government shutdown – at least for a few weeks – now behind us, it’s certainly a great relief. But for federal HR leaders, the challenges that were facing them prior to the shutdown’s start are still there as federal workers return to work.

Indeed, the challenges are really magnified and very likely even larger.

The need to attract millennials and compete for them against the private sector.

As hard as it has been to attract millennials to the federal government, now the challenge will likely be harder, as one of the government’s perceived advantages (historically) – job stability – may now prove a much harder sell, with the hardship stories that mounted over the course of the shutdown. Prior to the shutdown, only 17 percent of federal workers are younger than 35, compared to 40 percent in the private sector. I don’t see that 17 percent number rising any time soon.

The long-awaited retirement tsunami.

We’ve heard about this one for years – baby boomers retiring in waves, leading to a brain drain that will not be satisfactorily replaced, at least in a timely fashion. To date, it has not materialized, at least in the manner predicted. Yes, boomers are leaving, but it has been more of a trickle rather than a wave. Currently, nearly a quarter of the federal workforce is older than 55. Now, at least anecdotally, more baby boomers are talking about retiring sooner rather than later.

Difficulty in filling STEM (Science, Technology and Math) and cybersecurity positions.

As hard as it is to attract people to most agencies, it is even tougher to find talented individuals to fill technical and cybersecurity job openings. A big part of this problem is the competition with the private sector, where salaries may be much higher than in the federal space. Another significant problem has been the length of time to hire these professionals. The federal government has made inroads here, raising salaries and using direct hire authorities to expedite the hiring process so agencies can move through security clearances more quickly. But the battle against private sector employers will now be even tougher, with the perceived or real increased instability of a government job.

Employee engagement and morale.

As highlighted annually by the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), most federal agencies struggle with employee engagement and morale. As evidenced by reporting throughout the government shutdown, this struggle will not likely become any easier, and will likely grow. Indeed, a recent online survey by Federal News Network found 51 percent of the respondents indicated that their feelings and those of their co-workers about their job and their agency would get worse.

Employee retention.

Related to engagement is the challenge of retaining employees. As the shutdown continued, we saw stories of federal employees contemplating a move to the private sector. While many employees have a strong desire to serve the federal government and the agencies where they work, and continue to have the desire, the possibility of some employees leaving needs to be at least considered. Certainly, high attention needs to be paid to employee retention, especially in today’s tight labor market, where federal workers have more options.

We’re extremely happy federal employees are back at work. But with the government reopening, the human capital and HR challenges that have been brewing for years are there as federal HR leaders come back.

As before, Acendre is here with secure, modern, cloud-based talent management solutions to help federal agencies shed the expensive and vulnerable legacy systems that have burdened agencies for years.

Now, perhaps more than ever, the time is right to make the move. Contact us today to begin the discussion.

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