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How to Attract, Hire, and Retain Employees in the US Federal Sector

December 10, 2020

The challenge is real, and it has been with us for decades: in a not-for-profit environment, how do organizations attract, hire, develop, and retain employees that will help the respective organization fulfill its mission?

iStock-695760158In June 2020, the US President signed an Executive Order on Modernizing and Reforming the Assessment and Hiring of Federal Job Candidates to assist agencies in addressing much of those challenges.  

Through research and personal accounts from federal employees from a notable agency, the US Veterans Affairs (VA), we have found that accountability and reliability are two of the critical attributes a potential employee needs to have to be a successful contributor to the mission of the VA.  Offering essential services, the VA needs confidence in knowing that it is hiring employees it can count on. Additionallywhen the VA, (and most government agencies, for that matter) makes a hiring error, the cost is great. Not only is hiring and training costly, but the ability to separate underperforming employees also becomes more difficult.

So what's the fix? Implement a system that helps reduce the chances of hiring employees who do not meet the needs of the agency. The fact is, these hiring mistakes can be reduced with a good assessment strategy.  

Making an impact on this issue starts with hiring the right people, and hiring the right people happens when you follow an evidence-based hiring process. An evidence-based hiring process is one that utilizes validated and predictive hiring steps and eliminates as much inconsistency and bias as possible. This process also values hiring manager judgement and eliminates any “gut instinct” evaluations. Evidence-based processes are lauded because they produce impactful, positive results and higher performing employeesOur research has linked evidence-based hiring tools to such benefits as reduction in absenteeism, increased employee retention, and greater performance on the job. More specifically, for agencies like the aforementioned VA, there is no greater metric than an increase in patient satisfaction 

Related: New U.S. Federal Hiring Reform and the Importance of Measuring KSAOs

Depending on hiring needs, evidence-based assessment and hiring processes can vary and include assessments such as behavioral, cognitive, and technical items along with simulations. As mentioned previously, evidence-based hiring includes validated and predictive tools. Thus, evidence shows a significant relationship between how individuals perform on these assessments and how they are performing on the job (e.g., those scoring higher on the assessments are rated as scoring higher on the job by a supervisor).  

The US Executive Order is designated to provide agencies with the flexibility to use solid assessment strategies to select the best employees, and it also allows employers to not solely rely on the candidate’s formal education as the primary evaluator to use a more objective approach. This will certainly assist candidates who have the aptitudecompetencies, or skills to make a difference and help with agencies’ missions. And implementing a successful assessment strategy and program is easier than most people think.  

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Lindsey Burke Lindsey Burke is a Senior Consultant based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI. She is largely responsible for client support and managing clients in industries including manufacturing, sales, and healthcare. Lindsey completed her M.A. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Xavier University and earned a B.A. and B.S. in Psychology from Kent State University.