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Workforce of the Future Playbook

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has released an updated Workforce of The Future Playbook to provide guidance to support three critical pillars of leadership in future hiring and personnel practices.


Fri Apr 19 2024

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The US government is the largest employer in the country, with federal agencies employing more than 2.2 million people, but each agency approaches leadership differently. Because of this, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has released an updated Workforce of The Future Playbook for 2024, called the “Playbook for Implementing Strategies to Enable a Federal Workforce that is Inclusive, Agile and Engaged, with the Right Skills to Enable Mission Delivery.” The goal is to provide guidance to support three critical pillars of leadership in future hiring and personnel practices.


Section I: Plays for Recruiting the Right Skills

Strategic Workforce Planning

Many federal agencies remain reactive in their workforce planning, resulting in a lack of resources, skills gaps, and incomplete succession plans. Transitioning to a proactive approach to long-term planning requires focusing on developing skills and talents, developing a strategic recruitment plan, testing for the key skills needed today and in the future, and determining how to best use analytics tools such as artificial intelligence (AI). Thus, to increase the number of qualified, skilled job applicants, the federal government needs to actively seek them out. Rather than relying on traditional recruitment methods, such as posting positions on usajobs.gov and hoping the right candidates will find them, the government aims to pursue candidates who are the right fit for the government’s current business goals and future needs. The hiring process is also facing an overhaul, moving from self-assessments to skills-based assessments, because of concerns that qualified candidates downplay their skills while unqualified applicants inflate their abilities to seem more impressive. The hope is that using a multidimensional assessment approach will save time for hiring managers and highlight the best applicants.

Pooled Hiring and AI

Additionally, one of applicants’ major complaints is the federal hiring timeframe. The federal hiring process has a reputation for being long and tedious. One way that federal agencies can speed up parts of the process is using pooled hiring. Typically, an agency tries to fill a specific vacancy, selecting only a few candidates to interview from a group of qualified applicants. The applicants who were not selected could be the right fit for a role in another department or agency, but they’re often discouraged from applying for other federal roles after a long and unsuccessful application process. Pooled hiring would allow agencies to share the cost of hiring and range of quality candidates, and applicants would have more options open to them as well.


Further, while the private sector is already using AI, federal employees and HR teams are not. Accordingly, agency leaders are being encouraged to come up with plans for using AI, hiring AI-knowledgeable talent, and upskilling their employees.

Plays for an Agile and Engaged Workforce

Organizational Health

This pillar primarily focuses on organizational and employee health and using data to drive interventions, decisions, and future planning. One of the first tasks is to recognize that, given the unique work cultures across the government, it’s necessary to use data to define and measure the mission of each agency and what success looks like. Agencies are thus being encouraged to use the wide range of tools offered by OPM to measure organizational health and make improvements to the work environment. Further, the personal well-being of employees has also been explicitly recognized as affecting productivity. Agencies are being encouraged to develop employee benefit programs that support the health of their workforce. However, they often lack the attention and tools necessary to measure employee satisfaction. Without knowledge of how resources are used, programs will remain underdeveloped.

Data-Driven Workforce Decisions and Career Pathing


Accordingly, OPM is pushing agencies to collect and analyze data to make evidence-based improvements. Unfortunately, while the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 improved government employees’ access to data, research, and evaluation tools, many agencies still use insights that are outdated, incomplete, or not credible in some way. Federal agencies are being encouraged to use OPM’s resources to improve data collection and analysis, and then to use that data to make decisions within the organization. For example, employees have expressed the need for more clarity on advancement and a better understanding of possible career paths. Proposed solutions include offering rotational programs to employees, reskilling and upskilling teams, and collaborating across agencies.

Plays for an Inclusive Culture

Early Career Talent

The final pillar focuses on ensuring that an inclusive culture and associated hiring practices are achieved in order to create a federal workforce that reflects the diversity of our nation and includes highly effective talent and teams. Seeking talent early in their careers, using inclusive recruiting practices, and creating an inclusive work environment can help support these goals. To date, several early career talent programs have helped identify top diverse talent in both entry-level positions and employees seeking a career change. Agencies are being encouraged to divert resources to these programs, raise public awareness about the programs, and maintain relationships with sources of young talent, such as universities and internship programs. Additionally, agencies are being encouraged to adopt a unified understanding of and pledge to foster inclusive work environments to allow all employees to perform at their best by providing the space, tools, and opportunities for success. According to OPM, “when employees are treated fairly and equitably, feel included and valued, and have access to systems and facilities needed to complete their work, they report higher levels of satisfaction and are motivated to create new and exciting solutions to current and future challenges.” This results in improved productivity, decision making, and creativity.

Finally, the federal government aims to be a model employer for other industries, recognizing that qualified talent comes from all backgrounds and equal opportunities should be fostered. To that end, agencies are being encouraged to develop a strategy for connecting with Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), institutions serving people with disabilities, and community colleges to create talent pipelines. These relationships can help support the hiring of diverse talent and can be tracked with metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of each agency’s outreach.

For more details about the Playbook, access it here.

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