Many long-identified problems with federal personnel policies—ranging hiring to performance management to inflexible pay systems—are within a presidential administration’s reach to solve without changing laws, says a report from the National Academy of Public Administration.
“It may be tempting to reach for a grand legislative reform package,” it said, but support for such a major effort is lacking—an attempt at a broad package in 2018 on the 40th anniversary of the most recent complete overhaul quickly fizzled—and there’s “little evidence about which ones would actually produce the best outcomes.”
It said that many of the issues arise not from the law but from how the law has been applied by OPM and individual agencies, and “The good news is that what was created administratively can be transformed administratively. There is no need, and no time, to wait.”
It said that the administration in 2021 “whether reelected or newly elected” should take steps including:
* Expand advertising and other outreach to stir interest in federal employment and reach potential job candidates beyond the current focus on USAJobs, which is mainly of interest “only to those individuals who are actively looking for information on federal jobs.”
* Order agencies to make maximum use of job classification and pay flexibilities already allowed in the law.
* Expand the use of direct hire and other special hiring authorities and widely adopt candidate assessment methods used in the private sector such as computer-aided assessments and video interviews to replace standard questionnaires.
* Make talent management a top priority, including better assessment of candidates for supervisory positions and more training of those selected.
It added: “Reinvigorating the civil service is more than a good idea – it is essential for a healthy government. We have experienced years of people in and out of government clamoring for reform, yet most reform efforts have fallen far short of what is necessary. Civil service reform is not going to be front page news, nor is it going to be the issue that will drive voters to the polls. It is, however, an absolute necessity if we are to have an effective, efficient, and equitable government.”