The Avue Government Advisory Board, whose members have extensive Federal Government experience, counsels the company’s leadership on the alignment of business opportunities with the critical need for broader technology solutions within the federal government.
In addition to advising Avue, their insights from a career in the Federal Government are valuable in helping determine the way forward for all institutions, public and private sector.
This conversation is with Ira Hobbs, former CIO at the Department of Treasury; Robert Burton, a 30-year veteran of federal procurement law and policy development, including more than 20 years as senior acquisition attorney with the Department of Defense; Karen Evans, national director for the U.S. Cyber Challenge who spent 28 years in federal government leading information technology at the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Energy and Department of Justice; Sam Mok, managing member of the international business advisory firm Condor Consulting and former Chief Financial Officer for the U.S. Department of Labor; and Gary Krump, Executive Vice President at Cassidy & Associates and one of Washington’s leading experts in Federal contracting, and former chairman and chief judge of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
We asked each of them this question: Why does the Federal Government have a hard time recruiting and retaining Millennials?
Gary Krump on poor hiring process: I have hired people into the system. I have managed the hiring process. I have managed the recruitment process. It is about as about as labyrinthine and elephantine as you can imagine, and that’s saying it kindly.
I go out to a college job fair. If I’m with my current company, I know within fifteen minutes whether or not we’ll bring them in for an interview. If we extend them an offer, it will take us a week. If we have a written offer in front of them and have it returned from them it will take us two weeks.
At the end of the first two weeks in the federal hiring process, I’ll have been able to get my list to someone who can actually look at it, who will then vet it, who will then take a look at it. Now bear in mind I’m trying to hire for a position that is vacant, so by the time I get through the first month I’ve now got a permission to fill the job. By the time I get through the second month I’ve now had a chance to go to a college job fair. By the time I get through the fourth month, they’re done vetting them. By the time I get through the fifth or sixth month, I probably have a list of people that I can consider, that is if I’m going through the standard process. I’m now seven months without an employee. How do I compete, unless I have specific authority to go out and hire on the spot, how to do I compete with a private sector job? If I’m a kid coming out of college, and they’re dunning me for my student loans, how do I pay the bill? I take the job offer that I get that’s a decent competitive salary fastest.
Ira Hobbs on lack of engagement: OK, what is it about the individual? When we come in, are we letting them “work”? Because a lot of times we’ll say “well you don’t know enough to do that” or “someone else needs to help you with that, it needs to take time”. Letting folks work to their potential and getting them engaged early in the organization are very critical and key points that have to be made. My internship was probably the best two years of my life. I felt like I worked like a dog, I felt like I did some things, I felt like I accomplished some things, and I felt like when my agency made a decision to keep me it was because I had demonstrated something done at the two year period. A lot of interns go through their whole internship and they really don’t have anything that roots them to the organization so the first opportunity that comes along to leave, they’re gone.
Robert Burton on the reward of government experience: And with respect to short term experiences you cannot beat the federal government. You cannot beat the Federal Government with respect to having opportunities that you could never have in the commercial world; opportunities to impact policy, maybe to work on Capitol Hill and work on legislation, or if you’re an attorney working at the Department of Justice, and getting real trial experience; you don’t get that in a big law firm very quickly.
There’s and enormous amount of opportunity for certain experiences that you can only get in the federal government, and I do feel like a lot of young people will recognize that, and will be challenged by that, and will see a great opportunity. The other side of the coin though, is that they probably won’t necessarily want to stay for thirty years. They may want to stay for five years, get some very good experience for the resume, and move on. And so I think the government needs to adjust to that. I think the government needs to realize that the expertise is not going to be there, they’re going to constantly have to train, constantly have to try and hire new people, and that’s going to be challenging.
Karen Evans on meaningful work: If you’re really going to have them run around and get coffee, that’s not a really meaningful internship. But if you give them internships that allows them to earn their way through so that when they graduate they have security clearances, then they can start day on one meaningful work and really then get engaged. And that takes a change on how some of the business process and things work in the Federal Government and how they do recruitment out into the universities.
Sam Mok on effective mentoring: The biggest problem is that we spend a lot of time and effort to recruit young people, but after they come in we just kind of throw them to the wolves. There’s really no, I think, effective mentoring. We do have a lot of training programs, but we don’t manage the expectations realistically and effectively. So that’s one big problem. The second problem I see is when they come in, I think that the Military and Foreign Service has a much better career path structure than civil service. A lot of us learned in Foreign Service, I have been there before, and military service, is that you feel a sense of belonging, you see a path where you want to go, and the path is flexible enough that if you want to make a switch, you can. In civil service, it’s kind of like you’re on your own, and sometimes it’s not very transparent.