By Natalie Alms, Staff Reporter, Nextgov/FCW | January 19, 2024
Several agencies are hosting a challenge with prize money meant to spur innovation in how the government hires techies.
The Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Digital Service and Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Performance and Personnel Management want ideas on how to train government HR professionals into experts in recruiting and hiring tech talent.
The offices are hosting a prize challenge on the General Services Administration’s Challenge.gov to source ideas and are offering up to $880,000 in cash prizes. The winner will be charged with developing and leading a pilot program to test the feasibility of their training for HR feds.
“Agencies across the federal government continue to experience difficulties in hiring people with the technical skills to modernize and manage the technology tools necessary to implement programs and fulfill their mission,” the Challenge.gov page notes.
Some specific problems: “The time to hire qualified technical experts measures in months rather than weeks, which causes agencies to lose candidates to faster-moving organizations; most agencies fail to assess subject-matter expertise at the outset, impacting the caliber of applicants on hiring short lists; and agency staff are unable to leverage modern sourcing and recruiting methods, affecting the diversity and effectiveness of their hiring pools.”
Agency human capital leaders, meanwhile, also reported to OPM last year that “the greatest challenge to innovation is limited financial and/or human resources, which restrict agencies’ capacity to explore opportunities and scale innovations,” the recently released Human Capital Reviews for fiscal 2023 state.
OPM, USDS and OMB say that the new challenge is meant to fill in gaps in how agencies evaluate, hire and onboard tech talent with a specialized training and development program for HR and human capital professionals, as well as hiring managers.
“We see just record numbers of folks throwing their hats in the ring and applying to roles here at USDS and throughout government as we see more and more technology roles open, so we want to be sure we are ready to place those talented folks,” Cori Zarek, deputy administrator at USDS, told Nextgov/FCW.
The hope is that the training program would help those targeting tech talent to use hiring authorities and flexibilities like direct hire to their advantage, understand modern tech roles and how they line up with government HR requirements and more.