Identifying and Addressing Skill Gaps: Innovative Federal Practices

It was an insightful Tuesday morning at the National Academy of Public Administration on June 25, 2019. A panel of four senior leaders in Federal workforce development came together to present their perspectives on “Identifying and Addressing Skill Gaps: Innovative Federal Practices”. Their presentations helped us understand the challenges they are currently facing and learn from the creative solutions they’re engineering to address current skill gaps and meet the future needs of the Federal workforce.

After an initial introduction to the subject by Chris Mihm, Managing Director for Intergovernmental Relations and Strategic Issues, GAO, each of the panelists offered their perspective. Some of the specific challenges they face identifying and addressing skill gaps involve:

  • Transitions – Trevor Norris, Chief Human Capital Officer, Department of the Treasury related the changes he witnessed in the agricultural practices of Arkansas to preparations for a planned state-of-the-art facility in Greenbelt, MD. He related that having a clear understanding of the skills needed in the future state would be essential to preparing for a successful transition.
  • Agility – Both Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chief Learning and Engagement Officer Clothilda ‘Clo’ Taylor and Elizabeth Kolmstetter, Director, Talent Strategy and Engagement at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shared that their workforces need to pivot from one priority to another, depending on current events and directives from the administration.
  • Communication – Raymond Limon, Chief Human Capital Officer at U.S. Department of the Interior, shared that, like many other organizations, he had been challenged to develop a way to maintain communication across many different divisions within a highly-diverse workforce. More specifically, he spoke about the challenge of reaching out to people who work in the wilderness and ensuring that communications from the highest levels of his agency were accessible to people who were just getting started in their careers as civil servants.

For these and other challenges, the panel shared several innovative solutions that have helped them overcome these challenges for the good of the American people, for example:

  • Internal job boards – While it was emphasized that having one government-wide job board would not meet the diverse needs of the various agencies’ missions, the panelists agreed that unified, agency-wide internal job boards, that enable current civil servants to express their interest in new and emerging opportunities and potentially pitch new positions, was extremely valuable for closing identified skill gaps.
  • Job swapping – The practice of exchanging workers within a division, an agency, or even across agencies for a period of 90 – 180 days not only helps to bridge skill gaps, but is an effective tool to motivate, retain, and upskill Federal employees. Also, in many cases, this option can be accomplished without incurring additional cost to the respective agencies.
  • Succession planning – Unlike the accepted ‘just in case’ contingency succession planning, which involves identifying an individual who can take over a position if it were to be suddenly vacated, innovative succession planning must consider envisioned future needs and the competencies required to meet those needs. Then, individuals can be identified for development in advance of the actual need.

After the moderator, Debra Eshelman, Managing Director of People & Performance Consulting at Management Concepts wrapped up the panel discussion and opened the floor to questions from the audience, Steve Maier, President of the sponsor organization, Management Concepts thanked Terry Gerton, President, and CEO of the host, National Academy of Public Administration, the panelists, and the audience for their time and participation. It was an exceptionally thought-provoking discussion that provided practical tips for all.

Written by:
Natalie Komitsky
Human Capital & Human Resources
Media Type:

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