We are less than a week out from the announcement of Trump’s hiring freeze. As a hiring manager, supervisor, or team lead, you may be panicking about what to do to keep your team functioning until the thaw. These are entirely reasonable concerns. And, we’re here to help. We offer three suggestions of what to do until the hiring freeze is over.
Three things to do while waiting out the hiring freeze
Finish job analyses and position descriptions
It seems like a futile task to keep moving forward with any job analyses or position descriptions that were active before the hiring freeze. Especially because the hiring freeze is expected to go on for at least 90 days, after which time OPM and OMB will offer a long term plan for reducing the size of the federal workforce. Despite that, keep working on those job analyses and position descriptions.
When the freeze lifts, there will be a rush of job postings heading over to the HR department. You. Want. To. Be. First!
Remember, this freeze is intended to give OPM and OMB a chance to think through how best to reduce the workforce. It’s also an opportunity for you to carefully think through exactly what skills you need and the most critical positions for your team.
Review team/department responsibilities
The biggest reason that the Federal workforce is panicked about the freeze is that the workload doesn’t shrink. Shortages that will only increase over time as staff members find other job opportunities or retirement eligible employees turn in their paperwork. For this reason, one of the most important things to do for the good of your team and your own personal sanity is to take the time to review all of the responsibilities your team is currently expected to accomplish. Rate those responsibilities on how critical they are and the impact of those tasks not being accomplished. This review will help you clarify what tasks you can drop. It will also help you have meaningful conversations with your leadership on why you are making these decisions.
Further, having gone through a similar situation myself where I lost more than half of my team and tried to keep up the current level of work – I strongly recommend reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I felt better about not doing everything we were doing before my team was cut. But more importantly it helped me think through which things our team did that were most essential.
Develop and retain existing team members
The biggest problem with using attrition to reduce the Federal workforce is that it assumes that the lower performers will quit. It also assumes that those eligible for retirement are no longer providing value. The truth is, that your highest performers and many of your retirement-eligible employees provide the most value to our government. They are also the ones most at risk for leaving. For this reason it’s critical you focus on the ‘care and feeding’ of your team.
Take the time now to meet with each of your team members. Ask them about their career goals. Discuss what skills they want to develop. Have an honest conversation with them about their frustrations at work. And, I don’t mean frustrations with what’s going on in politics right now. While you can be empathetic, you don’t want to fall into the trap of complaining with them. Complaining with them may just help get them out the door faster as you reinforce their frustrations.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers some suggestions for retaining Federal employees. However, for a more robust discussion of retaining federal employees consider this report written in part by the Partnership for Public Service.
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Brilliant, timely, and spot on!