How Human Capital Leaders Should Work with the Next Presidential Administration

As unpredictable as the 2016 White House campaign has been, this much is certain: we’ll elect a new president in November, and U.S. human capital leaders will need to prepare for a major transition. 

They’ll do so at a time when hiring challenges loom large. More than two of five federal executives say their agency is unable to recruit the best employees, according to research from Vanderbilt University. With the exodus of Baby Boomers and ongoing struggles to recruit young talent, HR must work with incoming agency leaders to solve the “people problem.” 

To get a sense of what’s ahead and how to best respond, we at Acendre recently sponsored a webinar with three esteemed federal human capital leaders, titled “The Countdown to the Next Presidency is On – Is Your Agency’s Human Capital Management Strategy Ready?” Here are the highlights of what our participants had to say: 

Kevin Mahoney, Chief Human Capital Officer, U.S. Department of Commerce: The very “people” face of government has shifted dramatically over recent decades, Mahoney said, as today’s younger professionals don’t necessarily plan to stay with an employer for 30 years and retire. They bring to the table outstanding tech knowledge and tools. With this, they’ve developed higher expectations of a possible career with the government, and new agency administrations must align strategically with human capital managers to meet these expectations. “Young people are graduating from college and entering the workforce with the ability to do data analytics and make good decisions from data,” Mahoney said. “They’re not content to sit around and do the same tasks over and over again. They want to be part of a decision-making team. This will create an interesting challenge for the next administration.” 

David Tumblin, Deputy Chief Human Capital Officer, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): With the transition, Tumblin said HR teams must continue to increase their role as strategic consultants for their agency. They have to demonstrate that they add value far beyond simply “hiring and paying people,” because that’s only the beginning of what HR can offer. “If the transition requires that the agency go into a different strategic direction, we have to make it clear that we can help with that,” Tumblin said. “We can build job descriptions to align people with the new direction, and ensure that this direction is tied into performance objectives. We can design programs so employees are recognized for achieving the new goals. To do this, we need to sit down with the incoming leaders and tell them what steps we can take to make them succeed.” 

Ray Limon, Deputy Chief Human Capital Officer, U.S. Department of Interior: The campaigns of 2016 have been all about change, Limon noted. But campaigning isn’t the same as governing. To enact meaningful change, he said, new agency leadership and human capital managers must get with job candidates, and find out why it’s so difficult to match applicants’ skills sets to the careers they seek. “There are so many apps and other technologies available to them,” Limon said. “So why should it be so frustrating for them when they try to join the federal landscape? Managers have to do a better job of anticipating the needs of the modern workforce and figure out, ‘How do we institute real change?’ That’s a challenge that keeps me excited about my job.” 

Ultimately, it’s about cultivating a culture of innovation which removes creative constraints and transforms agencies into places of unlimited, dynamic potential for impact. But this cultural revolution starts at the top. “What’s your tolerance for accepting mistakes?” Mahoney asked our audience. “Innovation requires risks. Employees should be confident that their managers have their backs if they try something that doesn’t work out.” 

At Acendre, we couldn’t agree more. That’s why we collaborate with government human capital teams to reinvent the playbook on talent management, through leading-edge analytics technologies and in-depth expertise on the redefining of recruitment, onboarding, growth/development and engagement processes. If that sounds like something you’d like to know more about, than please contact us.

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