OPM highlights hiring reform best practices

Tuesday - 12/6/2011, 5:34pm EST

Some agencies have received a pat on the back from the Office of Personnel Management for reducing the time they take to fill vacancies.

"Agencies are making progress with efforts to improve processes and are steadily moving towards meeting hiring reform objectives," said OPM Associate Director of Employee Services Angela Bailey in the memo sent to agency human resources directors on Dec. 2 but not posted to the Chief Human Officer's Council website until today.

It takes about a month less to fill vacancies on average across the government than it did when President Barack Obama launched his hiring reform initiative in 2009. Most agencies have boiled job announcements to five pages or less and rewritten them in plain language. OPM said few positions continue to require that candidates write essays testing knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), instead calling for resumes.

Over the past eight months, OPM interviewed chief human capital officers to find out how they made progress towards these goals.

Bailey listed some tips in her memo:

  • Agencies shortened the time it takes to fill a vacancy by creating metrics to measure progress. The Defense Department made streamlining the hiring process one of its "high priority performance goals." The Energy Department and OPM began using internal dashboards to track their hiring processes and identify "red flags" or "bottlenecks."

  • Agencies improved communication with applicants. The Homeland Security Department created a five-point notification process. The Transportation Security Administration implemented a dashboard to let candidates track their application through the hiring process. The Social Security Administration tried to write their job notices in plainer English.

  • Agencies gave hiring managers greater power and responsibility. Several agencies have tried to increase communication between human resources staff and hiring managers through one-on-one support. Energy now requires managers to prepare for interviews before receiving a list of eligible candidates.
"We encourage you to reach out to these agencies to learn more about their practices to assist in your continued hiring reform efforts," Bailey wrote, adding that OPM would share more success stories on its hiring reform website, Office of Management and Budget's MAX system and interagency forums.

The memo asks human resources directors to highlight their improvement in their next progress review.

Now that agencies are streamlining the hiring process, they must figure out if they are hiring better candidates, Bailey said at meeting last month of chief human capital officers.

"Agency management believes they are hiring the right people," she said. But OPM's Employee Viewpoint Survey indicated that "employees in the same work unit aren't so sure."

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