The Trump administration is asking industry for ways to help the federal workforce adapt to a more technology-driven workplace, according to a Feb. 26 request for information.
The initiative, led by a cross-agency working group on “reskilling,” is calling for white papers that demonstrate scalable, cost effective, and commercial technologies for employee career development and retraining. Vendors will compete to participate in a pilot program that could translate into a governmentwide program that could see massive investments in training and staff development.
The federal government’s difficulties recruiting and retaining employees in high-demand fields, such as information technology, are well documented. Numerous reports have highlighted the fact that federal agencies lag behind the private sector in hiring candidates with training in cybersecurity and cloud computing.
Agencies have also struggled to reward and develop high-performing employees or change their organizational culture. The 2018 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, conducted annually by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), found that only 43 percent of government employees believe that creativity and innovation are rewarded, while fewer than one in three think their agencies can deal adequately with consistent low performers. At the same time, only 42 percent say that their agencies are able to recruit people with the right skills.
The Trump administration made retraining the federal workforce to meet the future needs of U.S. citizens and customers a central facet of the 2018 President’s Management Agenda and a cross-agency priority goal. The agenda calls on agencies to “do a better job of end-to-end strategic workforce management” – in other words, matching skilled employees with the right roles and opportunities to meet their mission goals. It also means providing employees with resources to develop new skills.
Following its release, the White House convened a working group on strategic workforce management led by officials from the Pentagon, OPM, and Office of Management and Budget. The group is assessing strategies such as adopting a more graduated pay-for-performance model and streamlining the hiring process for candidates with in-demand skillsets. But the group is also looking at areas where automation can replace repetitive, low-skill tasks, and at retraining employees to perform higher-order work.
According to a December 2018 progress update, between now and the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020, the working group plans a pilot project to evaluate the capabilities of various learning management platforms and processes to promote skills development among participating employees. The Feb. 26 RFI would appear to support that need.
From industry, the government is requesting five-page white papers describing talent management capabilities with respect to six key requirements:
- Strategic approach to talent acquisition, development, management, and analytics;
- Software and technologies to support talent acquisition, development, management, and analytics;
- Use of technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, simulation, autonomy, mobility, and gaming;
- Use of cloud technologies and FedRAMP certifications;
- Approaches to competency identification, career development, and performance management; and
- Operations and maintenance, including software releases, updates, error mitigation, and contingency operations.
Interested vendors have until March 15 to submit their responses to the Defense Human Resources Activity, which is overseeing the procurement in lieu of a standard contracting office.
Although awards issued in the initial pilot phase will probably be small, the program has a massive upside. The final-round contract could capture a sizeable share of the roughly $4.2 billion the federal government spends on learning management and professional development services each year. It could also represent an opportunity to gain brand exposure by participating in a high-profile governmentwide program.
Chris Cornillie is a federal market analyst with Bloomberg Government.
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