More feds might be needed for hiring reforms

Tuesday - 5/11/2010, 8:00pm EDT

Carol Bonosaro, president, Senior Executive Service

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By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor
Federal News Radio

Changes are coming to the federal government's hiring processes, and more federal employees might be needed now than ever before.

As Federal News Radio has been telling you, President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed an executive order designed to create faster hiring processes and more opportunities for applicants.

The Office of Personnel Management has discussed eliminating the use of Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) essays, and replacing them with a resume-based process, among other things.

OPM is also preparing a pilot program to test the new ROWE or, Results Only Work Environment, in which supervisors are expected to allow workers to have almost unlimited flexibility to determine their schedules as long as they complete their work.

Carol Bonosaro is president of the Senior Executive Association and said, overall, she thinks this is simply the first step in a long line of changes to come.

"I think what's really interesting about this is that when you've got thousands of resumes coming [in], the trick is to develop a way to quickly sort and determine those who are qualified for the positions and those who aren't. So, one of my questions is, how about HR staffing? [Chief Performance Officer] Jeff Zients has said there are interests in cutting costs in this area, but I'm wondering to what degree that's going to be possible and whether there are, in fact, sufficient numbers of people to deal with all of these applications."

Bonosaro said she also doesn't foresee KSAs disappearing completely, either, "One option is that you do a quicker sort and get down to the finalists, if you will. At that point, you really do need to know more about them. So, how that's going to be done is another interesting question."

She said OPM's recent announcement seems as though it is going to be just the first step in a longer, more involved reform process.

Over the years, she explained, human resources officers were pared down, and a lot of the work was contracted out.

Now that the Obama administration has placed an increased emphasis on federal service, however, there is a greater need to bring those jobs back into the federal government.

"We kind of tossed the baby out with the bathwater a number of years ago when testing for entry into the civil service went out the door. . . . I know there probably aren't too many fans of those tests, but it was a clear path into federal service, it was a very clear process, there was feedback, and all the agencies had access to those lists. There may, in fact, be something back there to be gleaned from the old days."

Bonosaro said it is always more difficult to hire for a merit system. This is why, she explained, that the process has always been more arduous for the federal government.

"The private sector is not subjected to that same sort of scrutiny. Inherently, there is some pressure to move in the direction of taking your time, making certain that these folks are qualified, and that you are, indeed, getting a really good -- if not the best -- person for the job."

Bonosaro said, also, that the hiring plan should contain details about the Senior Executive Service, as well, mainly because it hasn't been examined in detail in about two years.

"There was some experimentation with a resume system and, in fact, some agencies are now using resumes for SES hires. But, that has begged the question -- how do you go from that resume information to whether these applicants are meeting the executive core qualifications? Who's doing that work? Is it falling on the HR staff? Does it require more interviews and more material eventually from these applicants? Those questions we don't have the answers to yet."

Hear what Senior Correspondent Mike Causey has to say about the changes here.