What does the future federal workforce look like?

Monday - 10/17/2011, 5:27pm EDT

Panel on future of federal workforce

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Deloitte's vision of the future federal workforce is a group of "cloud workers" who provide their expertise government-wide on special projects that require creativity and problem-solving skills.

This idea — called Fed Cloud — recognizes a new kind of workforce that approaches a job differently from the way employees did decades ago.

To explain how this workforce would operate, In Depth with Francis Rose spoke with:

Using concept of cloud computing

Most people associate cloud computing with technology, but the concept of cloud computing applies to labor as well, Helfrich said.

Cloud is "about pooling resources to create more efficiency to scale up or down," he said.

Currently, agencies seeking a particular skill set may be looking for "a needle in a haystack," Eggers said.

With the structure Deloitte presents, "you reach up in the cloud and that's where your big needs are. You bring them over for a few years," Eggers said.

Some examples of professions that could be in the cloud are program mangers, economists and performance experts. With technological changes, different kinds of jobs may be added to the cloud, Eggers said.

A changed workforce

The General Schedule was created in 1949, when most of the government's work consisted of clerks. In 1950, 62 percent of feds fell in the GS grades 1 to 5 and only 11 percent were in the top five grades, according to the Deloitte report. Compare that to 2000, when 15 percent of feds were in the bottom five grades and 56 percent in the top five.

The federal workforce today is more white-collar, with many employees earning Ph.Ds or Master's degrees, Eggers said.

Fed Cloud also recognizes the characteristics of Millenials, who bring different expectations to the job. These young people are "digital natives," who have grown up with technology and often leave a job simply because they need a change, according to the report.

Workers like this are "clamoring" for an opportunity like Fed Cloud, Helfrich said.

Deloitte estimates that about 15 to 30 percent of the workforce today would be capable of working in the cloud.

Redefining performance measurement

Projects ideally have a defined beginning, middle and end, so project-based work — exactly the kind of work Fed Cloud is based on — is easier to measure performance-wise, Helfrich said.

What's more, evaluations of cloud employees won't be tainted by office politics, he said.

"When the project's over, you aren't going to be next door in my office everyday, (so) I'm more likely to be more transparent and candid in the feedback I provide," Helfrich said.

As an alternative to the GS Schedule, Deloitte suggests a performance measurement system that relies on Experience Points (XP). These points accumulate through projects completed, training and taking on leadership roles.

"You can keep up moving up to master levels, essentially, over time," Helfrich said.

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