Talent exchange programs between the government and the private sector can “strengthen agency workforces, support mission-critical work and foster government effectiveness,” a report says, but to be successful they need “careful deliberation, a well-designed strategy, a significant management effort, and investments of time and resources.”
“Talent exchanges may be even more important for the government of the future and a new generation of civil servants who are digital natives and seek jobs that offer opportunities for collaboration and professional growth,” says the report by the Partnership for Public Service, done with the EY consulting firm. “The promising potential of talent exchanges, however, has yet to be fully realized,” however, since only a few such authorities exist.
The report identified a half-dozen such programs currently operating, allowing temporary assignments of between three months and a year—with extensions possible—mainly involving mid-management or higher career federal employees or those in certain STEM occupations. Based on research including roundtables with experts, the report cited benefits including “knowledge sharing, professional development, career advancement, recruitment, retention and cross-sector collaborations.”
However, “Implementing exchange programs can be complex. Agencies need to figure out how to work productively with entities that operate beyond their control. They also need to be careful that each exchange complies with federal laws and regulations—especially those pertaining to ethics.”
For example, it noted that the Office of Government Ethics has cautioned that such programs heighten the risk of financial conflicts of interest, potentially making both agencies and private sector companies reluctant to participate in them. Also, there can be concern from management about losing staff capacity and reluctance by individuals to participate, given the complex process they must go through and the need to adapt to new expectations and workplace cultures if they do participate.
Recommendations to agencies include to specifically identify the goals for such programs and the needs they would meet; work closely with ethics and legal counsel during the design to avoid potential ethical problems; and consider conducting pilot programs before making a larger commitment.