Blog Post

A Federal Survey Revealed the Top HCM Challenges—Here’s How to Overcome Them

Nyla Reed

Partner, The Educe Group

Educe Group is a Cornerstone services partner with broad experience working with government agencies.

HCMG and Cornerstone OnDemand recently teamed up to conduct a human capital management study and analyze responses gathered from more than 100 government HR executives on the federal, state, and local levels. The goal of the resulting research, the HCMG State of Human Capital Management in Government Report, was to benchmark the last five years of progress in HCM in the government space, identify trends and provide guidance for leaders going forward. We have paired some of the key findings with software-based tips and best practices to help you formulate a strategy to develop and engage your workforce.

The most-cited barriers to change? Culture, in tandem with organizational structure and internal communications. The agency environment moves slower than the private sector, and this translates to fewer opportunities to roll out new initiatives. Creativity can be a key asset for getting around this challenge.

Government organizations can handle this challenge by taking a phased approach to the rollout of a new system or initiative:

  • List and prioritize all of your current and upcoming business requirements. Identify those that have both high business value and low barriers for change to get started start.
  • Developa realistic timeline for implementing initial requirements, ensuring that you build in time for a comprehensive change management effort and training for administrators, managers and employees.
  • Establish checkpoints throughout the process to validate plans with stakeholders at various levels of the organization to build accountability, engagement and adoption.
  • Gradually roll out additional features in manageable increments, so that you can transform your business at a realistic pace while still engaging employees with new features.

Bonus tip: Consider aligning your internal release schedule with that of your system vendor’s. This will provide consistency and create an expectation of enhancements with a predictable cadence.

"You have to know who on the staff is actually interested in leadership. There is many a story of how a person was identified as ’high potential’ and given extra training, mentoring, etc., only [for employers to realize] that they had no interest in a higher-level position because they didn’t want the stress or wanted to spend more time with their family than a higher-level position would allow."

Leverage your talent management software to bring your employees into the conversation and gain insight into their short and long-term aspirations, as well as their current engagement and satisfaction levels.

  • Encourage your employees to complete an online profile describing their short-term and long-term career aspirations. This will serve as a conversation starter with managers about their career path options, and how to get there from their current position.
  • Set hierarchical goals. Have managers sit down with their team members and map out long-term objectives that roll down to short-term goals. Again, this starts a conversation that may alert the manager early on of flight risks or potential career pivots.
  • Make use of software-based engagement tools such as on-the-spot feedback and check-ins to facilitate continuous, transparent conversations between managers and employees.
  • Display quick and easy happiness surveys on your system home page so that employees can report on how they're feeling about their job/work/boss/business at any given time and action can be taken in cases where feedback is trending negative.

"Succession planning, especially in the federal sector, is a great challenge because of the concerns of pre-selections. You don’t want to build a succession plan with any particular person in mind because that gives the appearance that there is no room for competition for those roles."

Development planning for potential successors must be intentional, tracked, multi-modal and aggressive in order to improve and encourage retention of high potential employees.

  • Start by developing standard definitions of high-performing and high-potential employees, then calibrate those management ratings with senior management and HR.
  • Mitigate bias and deepen the organization's leadership pipeline by identifying successors through talent searches based on specific criteria such as education, performance results, calibrated succession metrics and 360 competency ratings.
  • Use tools like cohort leadership programs to build relationships, develop an idea-exchange program, facilitate moderated online leadership discussions with senior leaders and share interactive learning experiences.
  • Involve leaders across talent acquisition, learning and development, rewards and human resources teams to create a holistic plan for high-performing, high-potential employees. This could be a part of broader efforts such as ensuring that job descriptions are aligned appropriately with skills and proficiency descriptors and instituting knowledge/skill increase through features such as observational checklists and regular peer feedback.

The results shared in the HCMG State of Human Capital Management in Government Report show that there is awareness at the HR executive level of the need to remove cultural barriers in order to accelerate change, develop stronger programs to develop high potential employees and institute more effective succession planning. Developing more tactical plans to achieve these objectives will require breaking down each objective into manageable pieces to encourage adoption, engagement and acceptance along the way.

Check out the infographic to view additional key findings!

Photo: Creative Commons

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