How to attract, recruit, and retain employees in the US federal sector

Written by Lindsey Burke, Senior Consultant
Previously published by PSI Talent Management or Cubiks, prior to becoming Talogy.

The challenge is real, and it has been with us for decades: in a not-for-profit environment, how do organisations attract, recruit, develop, and retain employees that will help the respective organisation fulfil its mission?

In June 2020, the US President signed an Executive Order on Modernizing and Reforming the Assessment and Hiring of Federal Job Candidates to assist agencies in addressing much of those challenges.

Through research and personal accounts from federal employees from a notable agency, the US Veterans Affairs (VA), we have found that accountability and reliability are two of the critical attributes a potential employee needs to have to be a successful contributor to the mission of the VA. Offering essential services, the VA needs confidence in knowing that it is recruiting employees it can count on. Additionally, when the VA (and most government agencies, for that matter) makes a recruiting error, the cost is great. Not only is recruiting and training costly, but the ability to separate underperforming employees also becomes more difficult.

So what’s the solution? Implement a system that helps reduce the chances of recruiting employees who do not meet the needs of the agency. The fact is, these recruiting mistakes can be reduced with a good assessment strategy.

Making an impact on this issue starts with recruiting the right people, and recruiting the right people happens when you follow an evidence-based recruitment process. An evidence-based recruitment process is one that uses validated and predictive recruitment steps and eliminates as much inconsistency and bias as possible. This process also values recruiting manager judgement and eliminates any “gut instinct” evaluations. Evidence-based processes are lauded because they produce impactful, positive results and higher-performing employees. Our research has linked evidence-based recruitment tools to such benefits as reduction in absenteeism, increased employee retention, and greater performance on the job. More specifically, for agencies like the aforementioned VA, there is no greater metric than an increase in patient satisfaction.

Depending on recruitment needs, evidence-based assessment and recruitment processes can vary and include assessments such as behavioural, cognitive, and technical items along with simulations. As mentioned previously, evidence-based recruitment includes validated and predictive tools. Thus, evidence shows a significant relationship between how individuals perform on these assessments and how they are performing on the job (e.g., those scoring higher on the assessments are rated as scoring higher on the job by a supervisor).

The US Executive Order is designated to provide agencies with the flexibility to use solid assessment strategies to select the best employees, and it also allows employers to not solely rely on the candidate’s formal education as the primary evaluator to use a more objective approach. This will certainly assist candidates who have the aptitude, competencies, or skills to make a difference and help with agencies’ missions. And implementing a successful assessment strategy and program is easier than most people think.

Finding the right fit: nine assessment types

Assessments are among the most powerful tools available to HR professionals to engage better recruits, identify development needs, and quantify leadership potential.

The attributes of each assessment are intended to measure and align that information with your hiring and development goals.

This eBook will detail:

  • Goals – what is each assessment intended to measure?
  • Advantages and disadvantages – what are the strengths and weaknesses of each type?
  • Use cases – what are the job roles or job traits that apply to each assessment type?
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nine assessment types cta ebook cover