There’s a perfect storm brewing when it comes to federal employment. Multiple trends and recent policies are beginning to collide. This collision is going to raise some very interesting and extremely challenging issues for federal agencies.
First, there’s the often referenced and always present issue with the graying of the workforce. We’ve discussed it here multiple times, and it’s been the topic of conversation for many years in the government trade press. In fact, Federal Computer Week recently authored an article on whether the long-feared “retirement tsunami” is beginning to near landfall.
Essentially, the federal workforce, which is heavy with baby boomers and light on younger staff, is rapidly approaching the retirement age. Should the “retirement tsunami” be close to crashing down on the federal government, as the article articulates, the end result will be agencies left with few senior leaders and staffs that are stretched thin.
In addition to impending retirements, the federal government is also facing tight budgets due to the ongoing economic downturn. To help balance budgets, a hiring freeze and salary freeze has been put in effect to reduce raises, bonuses and the addition of new staff to agencies.
The hiring freeze and budget cuts have left agencies significantly smaller today than they were just a few years ago. According to an article in USA Today, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has had to adapt to new tax laws and tax breaks while operating with $330 million less than 2010 and 5,000 less employees than last year.
Both the hiring freeze and retirement tsunami are putting agencies in a difficult situation where they’re being asked to do more with fewer resources. In light of this situation, the staff that is left at agencies is extremely important, and it’s essential that these workers are retained. Unfortunately, as NextGov recently reported, satisfaction with compensation is decreasing among some federal employees as the salary freeze eliminates raises and bonuses.
With raises and bonuses hard to come by in today’s difficult economic environment, it’s important for federal agencies to find other ways to attract new talent to replace those that are retiring and to retain those that remain. One of the best ways to do this is to increase workplace flexibility and improve employee work-life balance.
By enabling telework in federal agencies, government employees will be able to work from home or in any other location. This can drastically cut commutes, save employees money and otherwise improve the quality of life and work-life balance for agency staff. Even with salaries frozen, the added flexibility and savings can go a long way towards keeping government employees happy and employed at their agency.
However, some agencies have been hesitant to embrace telework due to concerns about productivity and its potential negative impact on communication and collaboration. Although teleworking employees are often found to be more productive, advanced Unified Communications (UC) solutions such as video teleconferencing (VTC) can help managers at government agencies ensure that work isn’t, “out of sight and out of mind,” for federal employees. VTC solutions enable government mangers to see their employees and have face-to-face communication with them regardless of where they’re located.
These same VTC solutions can also help address concerns about communication and collaboration. VTC can allow employees to have video meetings and communicate as if they’re in the same room with their associates even if they’re miles away.
The current employment environment in the federal government is a choppy sea, being churned by a perfect storm of retirements, hiring freezes, small staffs and salary freezes. By embracing VTC and telework, federal agencies can increase workplace flexibility, improve work-life balance for employees and ensure that they keep the staff that they have so they can weather the storm.