United States : The Trump administration’s call on agencies to reexamine the federal workforce and think about ways they can become more effective and efficient isn’t just a scare tactic in the name of “government reorganization.”
The nature of federal jobs is changing. Automation and artificial intelligence are coming, and the Office of Personnel Management wants to make sure agencies and their employees are ready when the day comes.
In the coming months, OPM will have more guidance for agencies to better prepare their employees to handle new kinds of work, the agency’s acting director, Kathleen McGettigan, acting OPM director, said.
“The federal government will not be immune to those changes,” she said Tuesday during a speech at a Government Executive event in Washington. “These changes will create more effective and efficient solutions for even routine work, and we have to be prepared for that. We must think about how we can re-skill or retrain our current employees and up-skill other employees who can help us use this automation better.”
Agencies spent the past year examining exactly how many people they’ll need to perform specific tasks. New professional development opportunities will be crucial, McGettigan said, as automation takes the place of much of government’s current transactional work.
“We can’t lose sight of the need to maintain and sustain a culture that cultivates a high performance workforce while these changes are occurring,” she said. “For example, training and employee development opportunities do encourage good employee performance. They strengthen job-related skills and competencies and help employees keep up with the changes in the workplace.”
OPM’s call for agencies to redefine their work and find the right balance between “technology and human collaboration” represents a significant shift in thinking. OPM recently documented that shift in its new strategic plan, which the agency released last month, and in the Quadrennial Federal Workforce Priorities report.
The report — the first of its kind — describes recent research on new trends that will impact the federal workforce.
Though OPM doesn’t predict automation will completely take over all work activities all at once, agencies should start thinking about how they adapt to a new world. Developing soft skills in the federal workforce has and will continue to become more important, it added.
The president’s workforce plan also gives agencies an opportunity to re-imagine the way they manage human capital, McGettigan said.
In asking agencies to evaluate their workforce and their current practices for hiring and retaining top talent, OPM has noticed that some organizations have created unnecessary challenges, McGettigan said.
“We’ve seen examples of additional steps and procedures that agencies have implemented … that are not required by law or OPM reg[ulations],” she said. “These additional requirements established by agencies can result in unique, agency-specific challenges, and those challenges can take time to address. We’re calling on agencies to look at their internal policies and procedures and to try to find opportunities to become more efficient and effective.”
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