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For businesses and governments around the world, evidence continues to mount that the way workforces need to plan for the future has shifted dramatically from the methods used in the past. The traditional succession planning framework has crumbled, and from its ruins the need to take a more holistic, workforce-centric view has emerged. While there is widespread agreement on the fact that changes to our talent management approach need to occur, globally, organizations are still struggling to make sense of this new paradigm.

Global consulting giant KPMG recently released the results of its global survey of human resource professionals that revealed shifting attitudes about how to build and grow a productive and effective workforce for the future. The report challenged organizations to take a fresh look at their human capital management tactics to gain more competitive ground, abandoning the focus on growing “top talent” and instead focusing on building the skills of the broader workforce.

Develop an Agency Workforce

These recommendations are applicable to government agencies as well. Our own recent benchmark survey of federal HR professionals demonstrated that agency managers must focus on building the skills of their workforces and fostering leadership growth and development across all levels of their employee base. Doing so will ensure that employees are ready to take on the work of tomorrow and meet future mission demands.

The reality – and the challenge – for government agencies is that they are not there yet. Although cultural issues, along with ingrained and dated government processes and procedures, make any change a slow and difficult process, agencies are running out of time – and excuses – to make needed, important changes to how they manage talent.

Why? The KPMG report was released with a sense of urgency for organizations to implement change, as improving economic conditions have made the market for talent more competitive than it has been in recent years. A sense of urgency directed towards the private sector should sound like alarm bells for the public sector, which lacks the ability to be as nimble and quickly implement much needed changes.

The Battle for Talent

Competition for talented employees is always an uphill battle for government agencies – and private sector organizations are mobilizing to hold their competitive edge. If federal agencies continue to delay workforce preparation and building career paths for employees – even as pay freezes and threats of furlough continue – they simply will lose current talent as well as their potential future agency leadership.