OPM chief: As baby boomers retire from government, a new hiring regime is needed

While not addressing IT directly, Springer's comments suggest that future of government IT will come from private sector.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor on

Everyboyd knows the baby boomers are retiring. But just how big that impact will be on the federal government is astounding.  Sixty percent of the government's 1.6 million white-collar employees and 90 percent of about 6,000 federal executives will be eligible for retirement over the next 10 years, OPM director Linda Springer said at a breakfast forum recently. 

"So what we are looking at, essentially, is a very different, a very new set of people who will be here eight, nine, 10 years from now. The time to think about that is now, not then," Springer said, as related by Stephen Barr in the Washington Post. 

"Do we expect that we are going to be replacing this type of traditional career pattern? Will that still dominate in this new population that we have, once we get beyond the crest of the wave? We don't think so. We think the population of the federal workforce will be different," Springer said.

Some agencies, she suggested, are hiring more mid-career professionals from the private sector and may take more interest in hiring people who have made their mark in the private sector, are near the ends of their professional lives and would like a chance to use their expertise on behalf of public service.

Mid-career and late-career hires will not be looking for the same kind of training as younger hires and probably won't face steep learning curves, she said. They may be looking for work or resources that only the government can offer, or they may want the satisfaction of helping push a special project to completion, she said.

Some experts might move from agency to agency, serving as short-term project managers for new technology or financial systems, she said. Others may want to move in and out of government "to get the best of both worlds," some may want to work odd hours and some will telecommute, Springer said.

That new reality will create a need for a fundamentally different way of thinking about personnel management. It will necessitate a breakdown of the government's centralized approach and mean giving individual agencies and departments within agencies much more authority to unilaterally make nontraditional work arrangements, especially around telework.

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