All told, the federal government employs around 2 million people. Many of these workers are in very specialized positions that require specific and highly developed skills.
As the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) pointed out in a recent report, federal entities need these types of highly skilled individuals to carry out their missions.
And, federal agencies “look to the Office of Personnel Management for guidance on closing gaps in the skills and experience of their workforces,” read the report, which notes that the federal government’s efforts to address governmentwide and agency-specific skills gaps has been on GAO’s “High-Risk List” since 2001.
“These gaps impede the government from achieving desired results,” according to the GAO, noting that a skills gap “may consist of an insufficient number of individuals, individuals without the appropriate skills, abilities or behaviors to perform the work successfully; or both.”
The report stresses that the OPM has identified skills gaps in governmentwide occupations such as human resources, cybersecurity and acquisition, for example.
However, this recent GAO review of the federal government’s skills-related challenges found that the OPM has some gaps of its own that could prevent it from helping other agencies on this front.
As the GAO report acknowledges, the OPM has taken steps to address these disparities, such as training and hiring staff, for example.
“But it has not created an action plan to manage this effort,” according to the GAO, which is now recommending that the OPM create an action plan and document the risks that such gaps pose to OPM’s ability to support other government agencies.
In a Better Position to Help Other Agencies
As the GAO points out in its report summary, the OPM plays a key role in closing skills gaps and ensuring that government agencies have the tools and resources they need to compete.
According to the aforementioned independent workforce assessment, the skills gaps found within the OPM could compromise its ability to carry out its strategic objectives. The GAO report singled out a handful of specific areas where noteworthy skills gaps exist within the OPM. For example:
• Project management. Knowledge of the principles, methods or tools for developing, scheduling, coordinating and managing projects and resources, including monitoring and inspecting costs, work and contractor performance.
• Organizational performance. Knowledge of the methods, techniques and tools used to analyze program, organizational and mission performance. Knowledge of the principles and methods for evaluating program or organizational performance using financial and non-financial measures.
• Leadership development. Knowledge of the principles of organizational development and change management theories and their applications. Makes sound, well-informed and objective decisions; perceives the effect and implications of decisions; commits to action, even in uncertain situations, to accomplish organizational goals; causes change.
• Data analytics. Ability to identify a need and know where or how to gather information; organizes and maintains information or information management systems. Ability to capture and analyze organizational data to identify patterns and generate insights.
For its part, the OPM informed the GAO that the agency “generally agreed with the assessment’s findings and were addressing its own skills gaps,” according to the GAO, while noting that the OPM has yet to develop an action plan that includes all elements directed by OPM guidance to manage this effort. The GAO also found that the OPM did not identify its skills gaps as a risk to implementing its strategic objectives, the report stated.
Implementing such a plan would ultimately benefit the OPM and the federal organizations they support, the GAO report concluded.
“[Putting an action plan in place] would better position OPM to have the near- and long-term capacity to help other agencies close skills gaps across the federal government.”