During the past year, President Barack Obama has put the federal government at the forefront of responding to the recession while tackling health care, energy and environmental policy. Yet demands are growing on an aging federal workforce. Manpower Inc., the employment consultant, launched Manpower Public Sector Inc. last fall to provide the same kind of staffing and recruiting services to the government that it offers to company clients. Andrew Jones, vice president and U.S. managing partner of Manpower Public Sector, recently spoke with Workforce Management staff writer Mark Schoeff Jr.
Workforce Management: Why did Manpower decide to enter the federal market?
Andrew Jones: It goes back 12 months, when we started looking at what was happening in the economy and the increased role the government was going to play. There are a multitude of difficult challenges. We’re looking at changes in the regulatory environment, which are going to put an increasing strain on the Treasury and other departments. You have these increasing demands on government and what the government is trying to do and at the same time you have this retirement wave.
WM: How can Manpower help develop the federal workforce?
Jones: The government faces a number of challenges as it tries to drive its recruitment. It’s about bringing the expertise of working with companies that faced similar challenges: How do we recruit people? How do we retain people? At the end of the day, the public sector is competing for the same set of talent as the private sector.
WM: Young people got involved in great numbers in the Obama presidential campaign. Does a government career appeal to them?
Jones: They have a lot of high expectations for work that has meaning and value and provides them with a learning curve. There’s a perception that this administration wants to make a difference and wants to make a change.
WM: What is the biggest obstacle to hiring the next generation?
Jones: The challenge is whether the government can recruit those people in a timely fashion. It can’t take nine months for the government to decide they should have a job. They have to earn a living. Once they get into the federal workforce, the question becomes: Can the government keep them? You have a 44 percent higher retention rate if you have an engaged workforce. That’s going to require the government to look at how they structure careers in the federal workforce to drive that retention.
WM: Will the trend toward federal contracting be reversed?
Jones: It’s almost a necessity in some ways. As you increase the scope of what the government is responsible for, you need to bring (those functions) back in-house. Manpower has been helping companies figure out how to balance how much of our workforce should be variable versus how much should be full time. There’s a lot of knowledge Manpower has gained over the years that we can bring to the federal government.
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