Webinar – The New Age of Federal Hiring



Federal hiring webinar

Federal agencies are looking toward the future of hiring. By exploring employment trends, agencies can uncover vital opportunities to enhance the talent recruitment process. It was our goal with this webinar discussion to delve into the critical needs facing the federal agencies in their hiring process, specifically as it relates to cybersecurity, STEM, and other special hiring paths.

We asked the HR directors from two federal agencies to share their experience of how they balance the competitive hiring process with federal requirements. Discover how these insightful directors match the needs with their agency’s mission and succeed in recruiting top talent.

We were thrilled to host these insightful federal HR leaders:

Julie Berko, Director of Office of Human Resources, National Institutes of Health

Gwen Yandall, Executive Director of Human Capital Policy and Programs, Department of Homeland Security

Matt Gloudemen, Major Account Executive at Acendre, moderated the informative panel discussion. The team at Acendre was excited to be a part of this dialogue to highlight what federal agencies are doing to recruit and encourage top talent through specialized hiring authorities. Understanding what obstacles and opportunities are faced by our federal HR management teams will facilitate programs for success.

5 Topics That are Integral to the New Age of Federal Hiring

We asked our panelists questions which brought to light opportunities and obstacles that they see within the federal hiring process, specifically when looking at cybersecurity, STEM, and other specialized hiring paths.  We have highlighted the discussion here. This webinar was widely attended, and its lively panel discussion showcased some tremendous opportunities to be discovered in this new age of federal hiring.

If you would like to explore more of the responses from this webinar, connect here where you will find the full discussion; including interactive polls.

How does your agency compete with the private sector and highlight federal opportunities?

Julie Berko shared with us that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) employs several strategies to highlight the NIH mission. The mission differentiates its programs from the private sector by allowing its programs to capitalize on the individual’s need to be a piece of the solution, solving everyday health issues. Berko shared how her team incorporates recruitment through bonds with universities and other organizations. These connections build a talent pool which is critical to mission success within the areas of cybersecurity, STEM and specialized fields. By utilizing social media and branding in a very aggressive manner, the human resources team can ensure individuals are noticing possibilities within the NIH. The HR team also highlights programs unique to NIH. The focus on non-monetary programs such as flexible work schedules, work-life programs, and backup childcare enhance the overall employee experience within NIH and the federal workforce.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) looks to the factors that create significant challenges to recruit top talent. Gwen Yandall highlighted just a few of those challenges such as low unemployment, pay freezes and past shutdowns. Yandall looks for the “cyber ninjas and young tech employees” at entry-level positions with advanced degrees. Federal agencies face a number of hiring challenges such as the length of the hiring process, laborious background checks and the classified environment which provides added restraints on federal hiring. Homeland Security and Yandall find it is ideal to design clear career paths with entry-level technology programs that provide enhanced career learning paths.

Which Direct-Hire Authorities is your agency using and are they helping to fill positions?

Within DHS, Yandall shared that direct hire authority provides a wide aperture within the broader mission. “It is essential to look at all the departments and ask where the needs are. How can we help?” said Yandall. Reviews of talent requirements and allocation of mission-critical resources allow the HR team to find and recruit the top talent for special hire positions. In respect to Direct-Hire Authorities, DHS is requesting new authorities to extend to gain more positions.

“Direct-Hire Authority gives NIH direct recruitment approvals and allows NIH to look at contract specialists,” said Berko. NIH is also looking at new talent streams within the Peace Corps volunteer programs. Peace Corps participants can convert non-competitively and allows for an accelerated hiring timeframe. This is an organic process that perpetuates target-based talent. Looking at alternative streams of talent provides a new perspective to the hiring process overall.

What is your agency doing to attract and hire millennials?

The panel discussed many of the critical points that many agencies are implementing to attract and hire millennials. Yandall suggested the importance of looking at data analytics. This allows the agency to look internally and prepare talent paths for this enthusiastic workforce. It is also vital to look at the work-life balance and ensure human capital managers are ready to provide non-monetary benefits to enhance work-life potential. It is essential that recruits are reached on accessible platforms, making the recruitment process user-friendly and adaptable in mobile settings. It is critical to actively pursue new ways to engage with our potential talent recruits. DHS is utilizing a virtual interview process to expand the talent pool, globally. By improving webinar programs and creating virtual tours, candidates can look deeper into the agency and explore the employee environment.

“It’s an exciting time to be a member of the federal government.”  Gwen Yandall

Having a robust social media playbook is vital to quality recruitment. Berko emphasized that “millennials inquire for positions via social media. We have the ability to draw interest to positions through various platforms.” For example, a platform like Glassdoor.com is also very integral, as it provides employees’ opinions about where they work. It gives a unique perspective to anyone looking to join the agency. Social media platforms become much more than just about jobs. It is a continuation of the agency’s mission and a place to share research, relevant topics and organization scope. “It is a vital part of sharing the agency’s impact and showing that the reach is nationwide, not just specific to Washington, DC. Coordination is key whether it is recruiting or a new program in development,” stated Berko.

Also, simplifying the application process to attract new candidates helps with hiring millennials or any potential candidate. It is important to highlight the process with tutorials and short videos on making applications work within the federal hiring system. Tailoring resumes and applications from the private sector to the federal government application process can be a difficult task. Berko’s team looks for ways to simplify the process and help boost the talent pool potential.

“It is important not to put all the millennials into one category.  They are not a homogenous group. There is no one size fits all.” Julie Berko

How are you training your HR team to address hiring challenges?

At DHS, it is a priority to encourage the human capital partners to think strategically and understand how to address and identify gaps in a timely and effective manner. The human capital specialist should coordinate with the HR Managers to ensure that there is an elemental connection between candidates and the team where the position is needed. Yandall shared that by embedding the human capital specialist with the hiring manager, they become an integral part of the candidate process. This allows the specialist to see first hand what program needs are and where candidates can fit in best.

Secondly, understanding the customer experience can facilitate the agency’s mission and work conjointly to improve employee engagement. NIH utilizes a program called  “Connect More,” which ensures the HR team can evaluate appropriate strategic recruitment and understand where the mission-critical point is. This program allows the HR team to connect with all of the various institutes within NIH. It provides an opportunity to gain a critical understanding of job definition and recruitment perspectives. “Connect More” provides a way to review where candidates have been sourced from in the past and analyze if those sources were effective. It is vital to show how HR can add value to the process.

It is beneficial to highlight programs that provide overall employee engagement. It can expand potential hiring prospects. Berko suggested events such as “Take your child to work day,” which offers a glimpse at real-life careers and a critical element of “show and share” to spark interest in young people to pursue their dreams of a future career.

Lastly, explore new means to utilize technology to search for critical keywords within recruitment potential. Test keyword combinations that will provide information with managers about key candidate possibilities within the current system. It is vital to have technological platforms which can generate quality reports and share across departments and agencies. Getting the proper information via key platforms can facilitate the efforts of HR managers.  

How is Amazon HQ2 going to impact hiring for your agency? What plans are in place to overcome potential challenges?

Brand and marketing of the agency’s mission throughout all platforms will enhance recruitment and attract more competitive talent to our positions, stated Yandall.

Berko emphasized that agencies need to highlight opportunities, programs and organizational missions to engage and attract top talent.

The opportunity to present this webinar provided a discussion to gain insight into the strategic trends the federal HR management teams are facing. This webinar offered essential points to understand the challenges your organization is confronted with and what solutions will propel your team to excel.

Contact Acendre today and let’s start a collaboration. Our team is ready to work together to assist you with your special federal hiring needs.  



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