Strategic Federal Human Capital Management – Talent Acquisition



As federal agencies grapple with outdated legacy systems while attempting to evolve in order to better address the new challenges of the 21st century, many federal Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) look to take a two-tiered plan of attack. In the long term, they understand the importance of establishing a framework built around ensuring their agencies are equipped to handle the agencies’ missions and human capital priorities, policies, procedures and business requirements. At the same time, some initiatives can’t – or shouldn’t — wait for 2, 5 or 10 years to be implemented.

The good news is that today, many critical initiatives don’t need to wait.

Targeted Human Capital Initiatives

Real improvements that make an impact can be made in the short term, and thoughtful CHCOs are making moves now to implement important changes. They are looking to increase the number of high-performing employees in order to improve their ability to meet their agencies’ missions.

Various functional areas comprise the big picture of how federal CHCOs are looking to improve human capital management in order to drive increased strategic value to their agencies. In a series of posts, I’ll take a look at each of these areas, beginning with the talent acquisition piece of talent management.

While not universal, it is generally perceived that federal hiring is a mess. The Federal Times has called it “unwieldly, archaic and incredibly slow.” Even with President Obama’s 2010 hiring reform initiative, talent acquisition remains problematic for most federal agencies. To make matter worse, the problems don’t end with hiring, as employee engagement has also remained a sore spot, which leads to problems of retention.

Fixing Federal Talent Acquisition

It’s a vicious cycle, but it all starts with talent acquisition and the problems are voluminous:

  • Time to hire takes too long
  • There are too many manual, error prone processes
  • Workflow processes for requisitions and job approval are inefficient
  • Assessing candidates is too time consuming
  • There is a disconnect  between HR and hiring managers
  • Interview management, including scheduling and coordination, is inefficient
  • Tracking job and vacancy statuses is cumbersome
  • Onboarding new employees takes too long
  • Inefficient use of existing talent pools
  • High-level information for senior management and executives is generally unavailable.

The challenges don’t end with hiring top talent, but getting the best possible people in the door is a logical place to start for agencies. If candidates are too frustrated with a cumbersome hiring process, they are bound to move on to other job opportunities, and any chance to engage and develop a new employee is wasted.

Federal Hiring Blueprint

As part of our collaborative work with numerous agencies, Acendre has developed a blueprint — A Data-driven Approach to Talent Acquisition — to help federal agencies improve their talent acquisition. The blueprint is a workable roadmap that helps HR implement real change in months, not years. Underpinning the process is data and analytics, which shines a spotlight on problem areas, opportunities for improvement and actual, real-world successes.

Acendre has worked closely with HR leaders of federal agencies to understand their business requirements. It continues to be our goal to help agencies meet their mission needs and help them achieve their human capital priorities. This blueprint is a direct result of this collaboration.

A key area of focus and expertise for Acendre is business intelligence and analytics to help agencies become more data-driven in their culture and decision making. An important element of this philosophy is an understanding of the complexities of the myriad of different systems that typically comprise a full HRIT and the data sharing that must occur seamlessly between them. This starts with talent acquisition. The importance of data and analytics to federal human capital initiatives, including talent acquisition, shows no sign of abating.

A Federal-focused Solution Suite

A longstanding goal of integrated talent management has been to quickly find the best possible talent and ensure it develops well and remains with the organization. A frequent winner of federal talent management awards and recognized industry leader, Acendre’s Natural Talent solution suite addresses these needs. While the focus of this post is talent acquisition, it is always important to remember that is just one piece of a much larger puzzle, so I’ll touch on a couple other areas here very briefly.

Acendre’s award-winning eRecruit talent acquisition system has been designed specifically to address federal hiring challenges and requirements. Numerous agencies use eRecruit to streamline their hiring practices, ensuring the bests candidates are selected faster, hit the ground running and perform productively from the start of their employment.

ePerform addresses the performance management, engagement, succession planning and employee development needs of federal agencies. The solution helps streamline and fast-track agencies’ performance and appraisal processes by aligning individual and team goals with agency goals to help the organization meet its mission and objectives. ePerform also helps identify the next generation of leaders and ensure continuity across your organization. With ePerform, agencies can nurture top performers and ensure their best employees are fully engaged, taking corrective action if they are not to improve retention.

Many of these improvements are driven by reporting and analysis of data. By capturing data at all touch points – from recruitment and hiring through performance and development. Data can show where your recruiting resources are best spent, what characteristics make up your best employees and managers, which employees are most engaged and the best fit for meeting your succession plans, and a plethora of other insight. Acendre’s People Analytics Center of Excellence focuses on every aspect of data analysis for HR organizations.

Federal Talent Acquisition – A Real-World Success Story

We’ve worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to deliver the agency a modern, cost-effective standardized and interoperable HR solution that supports strategic management of human capital within the USDA’s 29 agencies. This solution has saved the USDA millions of dollars and cut its 4-month hiring time in half, while consolidating over 100 disparate systems and databases.

In addition, USDA has eliminated data errors due to the end-to-end integration in which position and new hire data are shared between the recruitment and onboarding systems – transforming manual input processes to an automatic and paperless workflow. For the first time, HR managers now have a single view and greater control into all tasks in the recruitment and onboarding process and are able to report and manage their data in a cohesive manner.

With a fully integrated HR solution, data is integrated and shared between technologies, allowing new personnel to be brought on board into the system on “day one,” as opposed to the prior, three-week wait. Throughout the talent acquisition process, there are greater efficiencies, improved data integrity and time savings.

All this was achieved in just a few months and has helped the USDA improve its hiring of top talent much faster than before. This significant achievement would not have been possible in a short amount of time if the USDA had taken a broader position that every aspect of its human capital system had to be tackled at once. These talent acquisition advancements, while just one piece of a larger puzzle, are a major step towards the USDA’s broader HR framework. 

Getting Strategic

Federal Chief Human Capital Officers and their teams recognize the need for a more strategic view and plan to address human capital management requirements and drive increased strategic value. As they collaborate on the best ideas to achieve this, there are also more tactical initiatives that can be undertaken in the near-term that will ultimately drive strategic plans and missions. While several HR pillars comprise the overall strategy, improving talent acquisition is one area proven to have rewards as agencies embark on their integrated talent management journey. 



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