Thursday, May 08, 2008

In search of highly skilled workers

The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has a new study out called In Search of Highly Skilled Workers. Like all MSPB studies, it's focused on the federal government. But it has a lot of good info regardless of what sector you're in.

For example:

- MSPB recommended that departments should not rely exclusively on USAJOBS since this was not the primary way people found out about jobs--word of mouth was, through friends/relatives or their supervisor/co-workers

- More and more hires are being made from the veterans program, and this results in the most white males compared to other mechanisms; this has resulted in upper level hires trending toward white males. Interestingly, the most diverse hires were made through "direct hire", which does not require rating & ranking candidates.

- Use of the competitive exam process (e.g., need to rate & rank) is less and less frequent.

- Job security was by far the top reason new hires applied for federal jobs; other highly ranked factors included mission of organization, opportunity to serve the public/do good, benefits, and opportunity to use talents/have a better job.

- OPM's television campaign is seeing some success, with increased traffic.

- Candidates are pretty lazy and/or strapped for time. About 1/3 of hires did not apply for other jobs because they would have had to re-write their narrative description of their KSAs while about 1/4 did not because they would have to have rewritten their resume (!).

- More than ½ of upper-level hires were not aware of their application status until they called for an interview/job offer (sadly, probably not that rare).

- Many new hires indicated they would have accepted their job even with a reduction in pay because of workplace flexibilities and benefits.

- Coordination of hiring managers and HR was key: 98% of managers involved with the development of assessment tools said they got the talent they needed; only 82% of managers not involved felt that way.

- Upper level hires were willing to wait about 2 months between job application and job offer--most felt anything after that was unreasonable.

- Things the feds don't do well? According to new hires, they don't deal effectively with poor performers, their leave benefits could be better, and (not surprisingly) they weren't thrilled with the pay.

- Something else federal departments can improve on: providing clear minimum qualifications that truly are the "lowest bar", and verifying that applicants have them.

Good lessons here for employers everywhere.

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