The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently reported that there is a shortage of HR professionals. The news doesn’t surprise me as more organizations and industries start to realize the importance of a highly skilled, strategic HR function. Many districts, for example, are hiring HR professionals for the first time. Why? It could be the result of a greater emphasis put on human capital development through Race to the Top, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and other federal and state programs in recent years. Others might argue that changes in teacher evaluation policy in many states have created a demand for qualified human resources professionals in schools. Whatever the reason, it’s about time.
The OPM provides HR and talent management support for federal government jobs in a number of ways, from job classifications and evaluation to hiring and selection to performance-awards, compensation, and benefits, for more than 1.9 million federal civilian employees. They’re busy people! They are a politically-neutral organization, responsible for serving the human capital needs of federal agencies regardless of what party is in power.
The U.S. Civil Services Commission was created after the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883. This was in response to the assassination of James Garfield by Charles J. Guiteau. Mr. Guiteu was rejected multiple times after requesting a job from the administration that he felt he had “earned” due to his party loyalty. The Pendleton Act noted that government jobs have to be awarded based on merit, not political party affiliation. The Act also noted that the government could not remove employees from their jobs based solely on political factors.
OPM’s website then notes that, “beginning in the late 1950s, the focus of personnel activities shifted to attracting and retaining highly qualified government employees. The federal workforce also became more diverse, largely due to the efforts of legislative and outreach programs.” Then on January 1, 1979, the Civil Service Reform Act was passed creating the Office of Personnel Management as we know it today.
According to OPM’s website, they are responsible for “recruiting, retaining, and honoring a world-class workforce to serve the American people.” OPM’s Director or “Chief People Person,” John Berry, is working to ensure the organization can meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
When it comes to the shortage of trained, highly qualified HR professionals, the OPM has teamed with the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service (PPS) to develop strategies and programs to grow and retain current staff as well as recruit new HR talent. “As some of the most-experienced HR professionals left government ... we were not bringing in new talent,” PPS Vice President, John Palguta said. “So it will take sustained effort over several years to refill the HR talent pipeline.”
It will be exciting to see what changes occur at the federal level to help alleviate the shortage of HR people as well as what strategies and lessons learned from this effort could be used by school districts, state and local governments, and other organizations to more effectively recruit, select, and develop HR talent. I will be sure to share more details as they become available.
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