Measuring Hiring Reform One Year Later

on December 21, 2011 at 12:35 PM

Last month marked the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s initiative to speed up the time it takes to fill federal job vacancies. So, how has government fared in the past year?

Overall, progress has been made in the federal hiring process. Where it once took government an average of 122 days to fill a position, it now takes 105.

But remember, that’s a government-wide average, meaning for some jobs, the timeline is much longer.

Some agencies, for example, hire internal candidates more quickly than applicants from the outside. If that is the case, it skews the agency average, and probably means that those applying from the outside may not be seeing any change

And even using the new government average, it still takes about 3.5 months to hire someone. This means the government continues to lose talented applicants despite the headway because the current average waiting time remains too long.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is one agency that is doing a good job of trying to understand what’s really going on with their hiring process. HUD’s leadership meets regularly to look at its hiring data. What offices are leaders? What offices are negatively impacting HUD’s overall time to hire? What’s working or not working? And, who’s accountable for addressing the issues?

According to Estelle Richman, HUD’s chief operating officer, this analysis known as the HUD Stat, has “raised the stakes” and made improving the hiring process a priority for everyone. “This isn’t just HR’s issue,” Richman said. “The entire agency has to understand the importance of hiring top talent.”

Agencies, of course, not only need to hire more quickly. They also need to get the right person for the job. Clearly, time to hire alone is not the only measure of whether or not the hiring process has been improved and, more importantly, whether agencies are attracting top talent.

Agencies should be equally concerned and focused on manager satisfaction with the quality of applicants, the quality of new hires, and on applicant satisfaction with the process. Together, these three data points paint a much clearer picture of whether or not the hiring process is working effectively.

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard much emphasis on manager and applicant satisfaction. In fact, what I’ve heard from most agencies is that the response rate to the hiring manager survey is abysmal! That’s particularly troublesome since hiring managers have the most to gain-or lose-from the process.

While there are no proxies for direct feedback from hiring managers, data from the 2011 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings produced by my organization, the Partnership for Public Service, sheds some light on managers’ and peers’ satisfaction with their work unit’s ability to recruit people with the right skills.

If agency managers and human resource personnel haven’t yet looked at that data, they should do so. More importantly, they should spend time trying to understand what’s contributing to their score. And as several agencies have already done with other aspects of the Best Places to Work data, they should build this into manager’s performance plans.

The bottom line is that the Obama administration’s hiring reform efforts have resulted in some success, but the only way we are going to see real change is if agency leadership, at all levels, makes improving recruitment and hiring a priority.

This may seem like an odd conversation to have in light of limited budgets, constraints on staffing and external pressures. But, those are exactly the reasons it’s more important than ever to get it right-and get the highest quality talent.

What is your agency doing to measure the improvements and effectiveness of your hiring process? Please share your ideas and stories below, or email me at [email protected].

Tim McManus is VP for Education and Outreach at the Partnership for Public Service.