REDI Roadmap to Address Attracting & Retaining A New Federal Workforce

REDI Roadmap To Address Attracting & Retaining A New Federal Workforce.

Change comes from within and often requires us to take a fresh look at how we do things.
In the talent management space for the public sector many believe that is high time we re-think how Recruitment, Engagement Diversity & Inclusion should work.  The Obama Administration has been quite vocal and sought to enact real legislation and mandates to encourage agencies to change how we attract and retain talent. As the public workforce seeks to build “Americas Workforce” as evidenced by the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s actions in line with the Presidential Management Agenda relating to a cross-agency cutting objective known under the catch phase People & Culture.

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At no other time over that past three decades have we seen a better time for efforts that can address the lack of representation by key segments of our society in the leadership ranks of the public sector. As more students face moving home in with their parents due to a lack of jobs for our young people, as you represent a small and notable percentage of students that have struggled to be accepted and attend the university the rise and the road ahead for “the best and brightest” so often can be informed by those that sought a path leading from a proud legacy and tradition of grassroots organizing to a digital engagement approach; whereupon I would urge you to consider the benefits of seeking out information about the prospects of launching your career with a government job.

A decade or two ago there may have been some credence in misperceptions that existed about career paths being laid out too narrowly for diverse candidates. Some would even chastise that most jobs promoted on niche job boards were relegated to call center, telemarketing or began with a government postal service roles or a military career was needed from which initial employment started at the enlisted ranks of the military, not the civilian sector. Nobody wants to start in an administrative role that was nothing more than a glorified office clerical type of position.  As a diversity minded recruiter, I would have told you “do not settle” and do not go quiet into that good night; but today I would encourage you to consider the series of positions and learning opportunities that can await you when you dedicate yourself not to just a role per se, but to a mission that a career in public service can provide to you.  Why?

Career Development & Fast Track Programs

The point of developing a STEAM lab is to increase the depth and complexity of student work, while reaching students who traditionally do not engage in math or science such as women and minorities.  Consider your HBCU a STEAM lab and how can your school tap into regional innovation clusters which combine government, non-profit, and academic stakeholders to come together to engage students to study complex concepts by challenging them to address problems that have meaning to their daily lives.  Art is used to increase the “fun factor” but ultimately these aim seeks to bring creativity and innovation to a process albeit Sig Sixma, or other methodology where dedicated people can but teach to making traditionally dry subjects more appealing to a wider range of students.

A Mission Worthy of Our Best Efforts

As the Administration is working[1] with key agencies like those of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management much effort has been put into the body of knowledge and approach that may be needed to improve the effectiveness of the Pathways Program by further developing the necessary resources to educate hiring managers, human resource professionals, academic partners, and potential applicants. Federal programs to attract you to answer the call of public service include: a new initiative by OPM around a re-invigorated approach to attract entry level and recent college grads into what has been called the Pathways Program. In fact OPM has coined this program REDI Recruitment, engagement, diversity and inclusion and has released a toolkit for hiring managers and HR professionals. In the last five years much has been invested to help agencies articulate the occupational categories, competencies and skills sets they will need to address and put performance measures in place. What has emerged are some mission critical occupations and fields where the U.S. is just not putting out the quantity or caliber or candidates needed.

Top STEM Occupational Groups in the Federal Government (as of August 2014):

Sciences Occupations …………………………… 67,442

Technology Occupations……………………….. 81,533

Engineering Occupations……………………..  101,933

Mathematics Occupations …………………….. 17,418

Here are the cities with the most STEM jobs today according to job aggregator Indeed. It will become more important however for the Federal sector employers to establish Pathways program officers to engage with you and to share via social and mobile media the opportunities available to you and to discover what they can do to be more attractive prospective employers.  Just as the Federal workforce has been working to bring innovations forward with an aging workforce, more and more HBCU’s and Minority Serving Institutions need to be working on fresh initiatives together that will begin to integrate instruction in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) into our school’s curriculum.

Just as the Department of Education is working to promote a focus on critical thinking, problem solving, innovation and collaborative approaches to better prepare our students for college and the increasingly complex work environment of the future. The Human Resources agency for the Federal government has just released Easy-to-digest Pathways videos for hiring managers, academia, and prospective applicants on select Pathways topics. I would urge the readers of this article to seek out information, internships, and career development building programs that can position you to launch your career on the right path to meet the current mission critical skills and fill the gaps and jobs that have remained unfilled to the detriment of a workforce that has been empowered to eliminate barriers to entry, seeks to design new models of digital engagement and inclusion.  Mentoring is begun to catch pace with the rhetoric and providing a responsive approach is top of mind in the IT shop to enable HR to deliver training and education, feedback loops, and timely information that is not only of assistance to the American taxpayer, but provides to you the job candidate both in theory transparency and accountability for both the candidate and Federal hiring manager.

HR Tech shortcomings potentially can both help and hinder a challenging process.
The days of a resume based applications being mailed in with a cover letter are soon to go the way of the horse and buggy. Social media and the application of social networking platforms that can help sift filter and sort jobs, while serving to provide more access to and awareness of those types of roles and career paths that ultimately should be informed not only by assessments, but by skills matching as is being done on Never mind the fact that agencies are spending here to determine your skills and competencies, but potentially cultural fit as well.  I recall being a recent college graduate and outside of a post card deck attached to a cork board or a flyer in the Career Center on Campus there was not much in the way of even an understanding on how to apply for and secure a position in the public service outside of the national non-profits and military options that existed for me.


Figure 1 Retirement Conundrum  – An Opportunity To Address Mission Critical Occupation Vacancies


Given the adoption of programmatic ad buying platforms or DMP (Database Marketing Platforms) government marketers can secure more highly targeted ways to leverage search engines to attract or get diverse candidates to opt-in to recruitment communications. However in so far that the Paperwork Reduction Act and the Memorandums from the Office of Management & Budget restricts the use of cookies, more DMP’s are looking to provide targeting that does not compromise PII data or aggregates that data across social media, even measuring sentiment across social networks and commercial ecommerce platforms. This may present a problem in that many new contractors and their agency clients may not even be aware that these technologies are in use or being used for reporting results in practice but as the spirit of the rule aligns to the Open Government Directive Memorandum M-10-22 states

 “The central goal is to respect and safeguard the privacy of the American public while also increasing the Federal Government’s ability to serve the public by improving and modernizing its activities online. Any use of such technologies must be respectful of privacy, open, and transparent, and solely for the purposes of improving the Federal Government’s services and activities online.”

So as we look at privacy, ease of use and cutting wasteful ad spending for more replicable and sustainable approaches for recruiting the next cadre of STEM talent we must also ask, do the means as justifying the ends? At what point will adoption and diffusion of more robust ad serving and tracking techniques and technologies begin to encroach into the HR tech space.  Will it become SOP for the public sector, or the commercial sector HR professional to know my price based on my financial digital exhaust before the interview even begins. As for the Federal public affairs, IT and human resources professionals who’s mission it is to create more citizen-centric and digital engagement strategies to attract talent albeit are they apprised of what is allowable and getting the guidance and IT governance they need to embrace social media for recruitment purposes.  These are in my opinion some of the bigger questions agencies will ask.

New entrants to the Federal workforce in Cyber, HR, Acquisition, Public Healthcare are all needed to address shortfalls in Mission Critical Occupations (MCO’s)

According to a recent RAND study Hackers Wanted one could argue that the cyber-security threats and lack of supply in the workforce could in time fix itself, but with 21M undergraduates out there and given the fact the Pentagon and FBI alone have to recruit 6000 candidates, hearing former Sec. of DHS Chertoff making statements like “DHS can’t keep anyone in cyber. They just can’t do it,’’ said a former DHS official. “You can make $150,000 protecting the nation or you can make $650,000. Which one are you going to do?’ According to the FedScope database of federal employees administered by the Office of Personnel Management, between 2010 and 2013, departures of permanent DHS employees increased by 31 percent, compared to a 17 percent increase for the entire federal workforce.
As GAO pointed out recently in a report entitled “Strategies to Help Agencies Meet Their Missions in an Era of Highly Constrained Resources ” focused on creating a more agile talent management system(s) to address inflexibilities in the current system. The analysis found talent management tools lacked two key ingredients for developing an agile workforce, namely the ability to:

(1) Identify the skills available in their existing workforces, and
(2) move people with specific skills to address emerging, temporary, or permanent needs within and across agencies.

As DHS and Army Cyber Command as well as NIST, NSF-OPM SFS Program efforts are driving awareness I would share this recent item from Wanted Analytics Four Ways You Can Recruit Cyber Talent A recent BusinessWeek article discusses the US government’s strategy for hiring these jobs, looking at their Cyber Corps college scholarship and stipend program. This may be the key for any organization to fill cyber security jobs.

“While the existing talent pool can be a limiter for Recruiters, our college and university graduate data estimates that 53,000 people graduated with an IT degree and some coursework in cyber security during 2013. We also estimate that a similar number of people will graduate with the same education in 2014. One problem employers might have in recruiting from colleges is that the majority (53%) of students are graduating with an Associate’s degree.  However, 93% of cyber security jobs require a Bachelor’s degree or higher. To overcome this challenge, employers may want to either work with colleges to encourage students to pursue at least a Bachelor’s degree, or consider hiring potential candidates with an Associate’s Degree and develop an on-the-job development program.”

Given all the Federal grant money we pour into endowments, it would be good to see more University Programs come forward and help drive enrollment into CAE Schools. Models like these for a path and career advancement opportunities within talent communities can only serve to promote awareness, digital engagement and outreach efforts that can stem the tide by a cadre of pre-screened applicants while building awareness and candidate supply for the field with our young people from minority serving institutions.

To quote Col. Rivers Johnson retired Army OPA Cyber Command

“We need to ensure that we’ve got standardized training and that we also educate the workforce early on with regard to STEM and that we hit them straight in middle school and high school and we can continue that in college, but active recruiting is very important. We can continue to establish the Cyber Centers of Excellence so that the individuals recruited will, in fact, have a job available for them when they — they graduate.”

As he mentions in the video interview from last springs CyberForce2014 Summit “It’s a team sport” If you would like more specifics or access to research to help your organization build a coalition reach out to DHS and ask about how can your organization help build and receive value through common cause strategic partnership effort to leverage more or share resources across public-private –academic efforts for starters feel free to visit this content library or lesson plan on versal here

Author of the Book entitled, Cybersecurity Leadership: Powering the Modern Organization
By Mansur Hasib, DSc, CISSP, PMP, CPHIMS Cybersecurity and Healthcare Leader at the University System of Maryland wrote in an article on page 70 of this magazine some very interesting thoughts.  < >

Notably and essentially he feels that cybersecurity is so broad and so interdisciplinary that people with any background should be able to find a role in this field. Students should attempt to develop a T personality that he discusses in this article:

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For most students he recommends taking a variety of courses to find their passion. He also recommends sitting in a class before taking it in order to feel the professor’s passion for the subject. But like him he advises to be prepared to pivot as he had to since the field has evolved so quickly and how you will find success may not have even been invented yet. This happened to him, and is happening to many in HRIT, Ad-serving or digital web development technology as well albeit in a different field of study mind you but in the book he talks about the need for more interdisciplinary education.

Many feel that all the existing business and MBA programs or the IT and cyber security programs do not provide a student what they will need to be successful in today’s organizations. This is why he and others at the National Initiative for Cyber Security Careers and Studies have developed both curriculum and platforms to deliver the benefits of this type of a unique Master’s and Doctoral program with a blend of business and IT/cyber security that will prepare the next generation of C-suite leaders much better. So if you have connections in universities who wish to implement this program, I think he and others across several Federal and Military agencies can rally with your help and the help of the university to implement these very needed programs.

How agencies develop a well-defined school-selection criteria may be central to this discussion but one can simply click here < >to source HBCUs, Tribal Colleges, or HSI’s by STEM Fields for the local Regional Innovation Cluster.  < > but how many of these programs would be considered centers of academic excellence with programs that can be translated into cyber security degrees or fields for the jobs that are required in the 50 industries that constitute the Advanced Industries Sector according to Brookings latest study?

Figure 3 Data Analytics Dashboards for

The new and improved dashboards associated with now have an improved user interface that leverages a more data-centric approach. The changes promise benefits for finding candidates as well as funding and appear to be well suited to help government recruiters locate pockets of talent within requisite markets, or in seeking concentrations of needed skill sets and competencies

But where are the best feeder programs? 

In and above Presidential Management Fellows Programs, Pathways Programs now DHS has a new program called the Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative that takes in close to 1500 applicants for some 300 internships that provide real world experience in Homeland Security agencies.  Army is moving to a program called Soldier for Life to address reintegration of returning Veterans into key fields where talent is needed. Even the Scholarship for Service Program with the support of the National Science Foundation and OPM as well as other intelligence have all provided access to candidates via virtual invitation only career fairs periodically that will help you fulfill an obligation that addresses student loan repayment incentives for a 24-36 month commitment to support the Federal government in your career.  The new Tech Hire initiative coming out of the Department of Labor is a great one to watch too.

Given the posture taken has been to fill-one-for-every-three-vacancy announcements that are open treating this reality as more than budget mechanism by agencies at a time when resources are constrained and talent is leaving at a high rate, these talent problems will be compounded when the applicant experience is a poor one. The job seeker must persevere and be steadfast to get a Federal career started, but just as there are only a few fields where a pension is even being offered or can be secured today, the journey can be worth it.

Forward leaning examples of what may become of the traditional job boards or for that matter may not be too far down the road in terms of the will to build a better mouse trap; maybe one that uses Artificial Intelligence to augment the matching of skills, cultural-fit, and career trajectories. In fact something close to that can be found on sites like,, or even mobile voice-based job boards such as for bilingual or part-time jobs for those whom may only have a cell phone as a lifeline to the online job marketplace.

Just as HR tech evolves for the candidate so too are there even newer platforms for corporate recruiters that are emerging.  From video interviews, to those that can help build talent communities or ecosystems such as portals, websites or SaaS based solutions to address the changing job market. Many that have popped up that include the likes of,, or just to name a few, are focused on the data analytics and metrics in mind. These disruptors as well as the traditional vendors in the applicant tracking system space are all scrambling to optimize for mobile, search engines, while providing a branded digital experience across the full candidate lifecycle solution. If we are to leverage innovative sourcing and data analytics tools like, we must also be mindful of the changing landscape in terms of America’s Advanced Industries and what talent we foster to support efforts not only in key technical areas but in support of programs around regional innovation clusters or (RICs).


Figure 4 Brookings America’s Advanced Industries

To propel meaningful change leverage the promise of Diversity & Inclusion.

Why diversity? If we draw a parallel to the rise and fall of the Roman and Greek empires, consider the differences between the two and similarities to what we face as a nation. After nearly a 500-year run as the world’s greatest superpower, historians have blamed the collapse of Rome on hundreds of different factors ranging from military failures and crippling taxation to natural disasters and even climate change. Some might suggest it was the culmination of factors such as:

  • Economic troubles and overreliance on slave labor
  • Overexpansion and military overspending
  • Government corruption and political instability
  • Christianity and the loss of traditional values
  • Weakening of the Roman legions

Contrast that with what we can learn from the Ancient Greeks – given the question of the day running around inside the beltway with pollsters, pundits as well as the Chief Human Capital Officers Council “How Can We Work To Improve The Perception of Public Service?

Considering history lessons from the Greeks, the fact that one of the smallest geographic regions, produced such an innovative culture of learning in STEM but in the application of that learning facing geo-political conflicts and war, as you recall the city-states had to come together. Military historians may say it was the notion of the phalanx, but more important the notion of Diversity is the true take-away for me.  If history teaches us nothing it speaks to us today, for example thinking in the context of Talent Management I recently read a piece on the Greek Army not unlike the recent movie 300 that depicted the battle of Thermopylae.  “A well formed Ancient Greek army, however, didn’t just have a phalanx. What made the Ancient Greeks so effective was the sheer diversity in their troops.

They also had a cavalry, archers, and light infantry. The cavalry worked to protect the phalanx and to break up the ranks of the enemy. Archers would shoot from a distance to help confuse the enemy. The infantry also helped protect the phalanx while also inflicting damage to the enemy. Athens, one of the most powerful city- states, also had a formidable navy. The soldiers of Ancient Greece had a sophisticated fighting style. When they allied with each other over a common enemy, such as the Persians, they were highly effective. By the time Alexander the Great became the king, the Ancient Greeks had honed their fighting style and used that to conquer a good portion of the ancient world. ”

It was the culture that survived and even today as the youth of Greece face a 50% unemployment rate, the country is seeking to reinvent itself. Today our common enemy is apathy, ignorance, intolerance, and unless we embrace diversity and band together to improve the work being done in our Minority Serving Institutions to approach and address the issues of the day, such as support for and funding of our Schools, as well as partnerships with Regional Innovation Clusters around our country we miss a huge opportunity in the next few years. The needs of our public sector workforce that is seeking to be representative of our democracy, protect our civil rights, and ensure the freedoms we at times may take for granted should be a paramount concern. We will be subject to the chaos and uncertainly that entropy holds for us, but in a growing and more complex society that is on the brink in terms of evolving or collapse; ultimately some might say we are the protectors of western civilization and democracy in the free world so it is from our People & Culture that we must lead and from that will emerge a new world. One that can bring new philosophies, theories, and technologies the application of which should work to can propel our society, economy and culture forward.

We live in a global community but it is in our hands and to the Class of 2015 I wish you all the best and hope that you will see value in the system that has sought to create and apply knowledge and learning to the big issues of the day. It is important to dedicate ourselves to making a difference, and in addition to a pension some may find that public service can be the best way to achieve career aspirations while also inspiring others to bring their expertise around a common cause and mission that matters as it did to many back in Selma, or Ancient Greece.  Let history judge us for our deeds, but let diversity and inclusion be a guiding principle. I for one am ready to see the posture of our Federal HR workforce change to one that is ready to lean in and address REDI, we just need to give them the technology, support, and pay-parity they rightly deserve to accomplish the missions before us.

[1] Human Capital: Strategies to Help Agencies Meet Their Missions in an Era of Highly Constrained Resources.


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