As 2022 begins, hiring, labor, and the state of the workforce make headlines daily. Federal and state governments are looking at ways to improve the hiring situation for private businesses. As employers themselves, they are also embracing new ways to hire better for government roles.
Talent intelligence offers a way for federal and state governments to focus on how skills match up with open job opportunities. The U.S. Department of Labor and other government offices now use artificial intelligence to tackle the challenges of better hiring.
Talent Intelligence in the Public Sector
During the pandemic, government agencies’ efforts to protect public health, shore up the economy, and manage uncertainty became hot topics of conversation. Yet many more changes occurred behind the scenes.
One such change is a transition by the Department of Labor toward hiring for skills, not credentials. Wherever possible, the DOL began to make job postings that omitted mentions of college degrees or educational credentials in favor of discussing the actual skills required in the position.
The change proved challenging. In an effort to make clear which skills were required in each job posting, it was necessary to explore a “system where multiple pathways could lead to each job,” including assessment of necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities regardless of where these were learned, writes Michael Brickman, head of operations and compliance at Craft Education System and former senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Education.
The Department of Labor also put technology to work. Artificial intelligence can spot patterns and make predictions based on patterns identified in existing data. By using these tools to analyze skills directly, the DOL and other government agencies gain better insight into which skills are relevant to each position and which are used on a daily basis. This clarity leads to a better understanding of which candidates can best be paired with which jobs.
Another way the DOL supports skills-based hiring is by making skill data available to other organizations. For instance, the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) database, developed by the DOL Employment Training Organization, is an online repository of data that can provide insights into skills growth, write Christina Curnow and fellow researchers in a June 2021 study. Users of the O*NET database include the U.S. Department of Defense.
Putting Skills-Based Hiring To Work at the Department of Labor
For government offices, shifting to skills-based hiring was the result of both internal and external pressures. A 2020 executive order required federal government agencies to start focusing on hiring for skills, providing external pressure. Within the Department of Education, however, human resources and hiring teams were already noticing the disconnect between supporting skills-based hiring for private businesses while continuing to prioritize credentials in their own hiring, writes Brickman.
The push to prioritize skills is also the result of quicker skill turnover and the need to integrate learning as part of lifelong career growth. New ways to learn have exploded since the advent of the Web. With entire generations of workers now familiar with self-directed learning, companies that don’t prioritize skills in their hiring practices will overlook qualified candidates.
“There’s been a proliferation in the ways people learn since the Internet, but hiring practices haven’t shifted. Skill cycles are faster now, and showing aptitude to acquire skills on your own is going to be important in the future,” says Joanna Daly, vice president of talent at IBM in New York City.
Federal government attempts to transition to skills-based hiring remain a work in progress. Recently, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management extended deadlines to meet skills-based hiring requirements into 2022. The requirements also direct government agencies “to continually evaluate the effectiveness of different assessment strategies to ensure the quality and integrity of their hiring process,” making skills-based hiring an ongoing process of improvement and refinement.
Images by: lovelyday12/©123RF.com, grigory_bruev/©123RF.com