OPM Shares its Vision for the Federal Workforce of the Future

future workforce

It’s hard to overstate just how drastically the coronavirus pandemic upended every facet of the federal work experience.

Kiran Ahuja, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) summed up COVID-19’s effect on the federal workforce in a recent memo to the heads of all executive agencies and departments, focusing on long-term strategic workforce planning.

“The pandemic forced all employers, including the federal government, to accelerate our thinking regarding how people are recruited, deployed and supported throughout the federal enterprise,” Ahuja wrote.

“Many thousands of dedicated federal employees continued to show up at their regular workplace throughout the pandemic, day in and day out, because that is what they needed to do to serve the American people.”

As Ahuja pointed out, the “strict demarcations between home and work disappeared” for federal employees balancing work obligations with childcare, eldercare and a host of other challenges.

“The recruiting, hiring and onboarding process shifted to entirely virtual in many cases,” Ahuja continued. “And the work environment fundamentally transformed, with planned virtual catch-up sessions replacing hallway conversations.”

Many of the changes that COVID-19 brought about look to be permanent. In the aforementioned memo, OPM outlined its vision for the future of federal work that the organization hopes will “serve as a north star” for federal agencies as they lay out their long-term workforce planning strategy.

Focusing on Five Priorities

OPM collaborated with chief human capital officers from a number of federal agencies to develop a vision of a federal workforce “that is inclusive, agile and engaged, with the right skills to enable mission delivery,” according to the March 7 memo.

To help agencies “achieve this future state,” OPM developed a strategy that focuses on five priority areas. For example:

Policy and resources. OPM intends to develop policies and resources designed to support agencies as they continue to operate in a hybrid work environment and as the future of the workforce evolves, according to the organization. OPM also plans to continue working with agencies to identify areas of opportunity and build upon recently issued tools and resources such as a re-entry checklist, performance management in hybrid work environments and remote work tagging on www.USAJOBS.com.

Research and evaluation. OPM plans to conduct research “to investigate and memorialize lessons learned from the pandemic, identify leading practices and determine how the federal government can remain competitive with other sectors,” according to the agency, which will share its findings broadly, to encourage the use of leading practices and evidence on what works to support agency mission delivery.

Training and technical assistance. The agency looks to provide training and technical assistance to help other federal agencies makes strategic decisions, manage their workforce and prepare for the future, supporting agencies through the development of trainings on critical and emerging human capital needs, according to OPM.

Data analytics. OPM will “support agencies with the necessary data and tools to improve our ability to make data-driven human capital decisions,” the memo read. “Through the implementation of our OPM data strategy, we will enhance our delivery of data analytics to empower agencies to make data-driven decisions through focused attention on workforce measures, e.g., retention, attention, engagement and recruitment.

Stakeholder engagement. OPM noted its intention to work closely with organizations that include private sector leaders, think tanks, academics, federal employee organizations, unions, and local, state, federal and international leaders, with the goal of engaging stakeholders to “learn, share best practices, validate future workforce needs and champion the government as a model employer.”

Looking ahead, Ahuja noted that OPM will be outlining key actions that agencies can take to “build their workforces of the future,” saying that these actions will provide federal employers with greater clarity as well as a framework for key strategies that agencies can incorporate to ensure the federal government can compete for top talent in the future.

“In addition to thinking about where we work and how we work, agencies need to be forecasting how missions will evolve, the type of work to be done, the skills needed for the future and the steps in the process of building inclusive and engaged work environments as they build their future of the workforce strategies,” Ahuja wrote.

And, as agencies develop their own workforce strategies, Ahuja encouraged government employers to identify the meaningful metrics that accurately gauge their organization’s performance, adding that OPM “is committed to supporting the critical work agencies will be doing and facilitating sharing and learning.”

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