How Federal Agencies Can Best Incorporate Competency-Based Assessments into Hiring Practices

0

Federal agencies typically struggle to hire and retain qualified candidates. This is partly due to stiff competition from the private sector, which often has the advantages of higher pay and advanced technology to attract candidates. But the federal hiring process is also notoriously long, opaque and subjective, which can prevent highly qualified applicants from seeking employment, let alone being selected for a vacant position.

This last issue is what the June 2020 Executive Order on…

READ MORE

Federal agencies typically struggle to hire and retain qualified candidates. This is partly due to stiff competition from the private sector, which often has the advantages of higher pay and advanced technology to attract candidates. But the federal hiring process is also notoriously long, opaque and subjective, which can prevent highly qualified applicants from seeking employment, let alone being selected for a vacant position.

This latter problem is what the June 2020 Executive Order on Modernizing and Reforming the Assessment and Hiring of Candidates for Federal Employment seeks to address. The EO directs agencies to rely less on college degrees and more on skills and competency-based hiring assessments. The Office of Personnel Management has twice extended the deadline to comply with this EO. Current guidance indicates that EO must be implemented for at least 50% of jobs by May 30, 2022. Full compliance is expected by the end of the year.

But implementing hiring assessments for the sake of federal compliance shouldn’t just be a check mark on the list. “Agencies have the opportunity to realize the true potential and power to better assess candidates for the nation’s largest workforce – and for some of the most critical jobs,” said Shannon Kobus, Chief Services Officer. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Monster Government Solutions.

Be clear about hiring goals and assessment strategy

Agencies should always start with their hiring goals. Is your agency trying to hire for a very specific and technical position, like an airplane mechanic? Or is your agency trying to attract a younger generation of candidates? The former may require a technical assessment of professional knowledge. The latter may be best served with assessments assessing soft skills in problem solving and communication. These would help identify the best-positioned candidates to take on an entry-level position with the agency and grow in a career.

But before agencies dive into their rating strategy, they need to understand their current state. Some agencies may already rely on sophisticated hiring assessments, while others may not use any. Some can be simple to develop and introduce – like structured interviews – and others can be more complex, like work sample testing. Large-scale candidate assessment technology exists to facilitate batch hiring or help reduce the pool of candidates.

These new skills or competency-based assessments would ideally be more objective and better substantiated than the old “self-declaration” method, where candidates often overestimated their own skills in a particular area.

“Agencies should add types of assessments that are scored objectively, like situational judgment tests, and constructed by hiring assessment experts,” Kobus said. “I/O psychologists can ensure these assessments are job-related and follow rigorous scientific methodologies to ensure they are validated and reliable.”

But there is a potential transparency issue here. Federal job seekers may be so accustomed to the self-assessment method that when they see an objective questionnaire, they may struggle to understand its relevance for the job.

Lead culture change

“Using a critical skills-related job analysis in assessment is a required, but not always visible or intuitive step to justify the use of assessment to candidates,” Kobus said. “If agencies communicate to candidates why these new metrics are important and how the scores are used, they can influence a candidate’s perception of fairness and motivation to perform.”

“It also requires a culture shift around the use of assessment among internal agency employees. Hiring managers are encouraged to understand why these assessments are important and execute them properly in conjunction with HR to the greatest potential to hire the right people in the right positions,” said Kobus.

“If an agency is new to this, they can start small, such as implementing non-technical assessments for a limited number of positions or departments. Then increase the complexity, incorporate multiple assessments, and become more specific over time. time,” Kobus suggested. “Small wins snowball into large-scale culture change, and that’s when agencies can start to incorporate more specialized assessments. agencies the opportunity to socialize these new practices with candidates and manage the change smoothly before launching a full agency implementation.”

Keep an eye on the big picture

Understanding how assessments fit into the broader workforce ecosystem and what external factors play a role is key to the success of these programs, Kobus said. For example, an automaker started using more objective measures to hire more high-quality workers. It went well for a while, but over time the automaker felt it was getting fewer quality applicants, even though the ratings hadn’t changed.

“It turned out that they had already hired all the best candidates. The pool of candidates has been tapped,” Kobus said. “So to get the same hiring rate and the same quality of candidates, the solution was to increase their recruiting efforts. It’s not always the test, but sometimes other factors that affect the hiring process.

And even when your agency’s assessment-based new hire is in full swing, it’s wise to monitor and evaluate the program with a continuous improvement mindset. Are you meeting your recruiting goals? What obstacles did you encounter that you hadn’t anticipated? This is where HR can really focus on optimizing the program to drive results.

“Implementing hiring assessments can be so different for every agency and can produce varying results depending on your hiring goals, which is why it’s so important for agencies to take the time to determine the good strategy adapted to their specific needs and are ready to adapt to the changes”, concluded Kobus.

Share.

Comments are closed.