Breaking the Ice: How to Be Strategic Through the Hiring Freeze and Beyond

March 2, 2017 in
By Whitney Huskey

On January 23, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that placed a hiring freeze on nonmilitary federal workers, and while there are a number of exceptions that will allow some agencies to hire new employees, much of the Federal Government may be unable to hire in the coming months. Even then, the anticipated budgets are going to require agencies to change how they work and accomplish their mission.

Given this current environment, it is critical that organizations use a strategic approach to address the needs of their workforces. The immediate challenge associated with a hiring freeze is the unintended skills gaps that may begin to appear. By taking a passive approach, you may lose individuals in organizations that do not have a deep-enough bench to cover workforce requirements, which may then create a skills imbalance. Where this happens, the outcome could range from overworked employees who are stretching to cover multiple positions, to a complete stop in services due to a lack of resources. Additionally, as the nature of the work actually changes, the challenge will be to make sure you have the right kinds of people to accomplish your mission.

Organizations that are not prepared risk decreased workforce motivation, engagement, and satisfaction, as well as potential burnout due to the extra lift of remaining employees. If this happens, it is likely that some of the best employees will be the ones to leave first, which is the last thing you, or any organization, wants to happen.

What can we do to prevent this?

Here are four strategies to apply in the months ahead:

Organizational Restructuring: The first thing to do to remain proactive and strategic is to conduct an organizational assessment to pinpoint problems and inefficiencies. This will not only allow you to identify and prioritize problem areas, but help you work towards streamlining processes and eliminating redundant or unnecessary programs.

Workforce Planning: While external hiring may not be an option right now, staying ahead of the game by identifying potential losses, as well as considering current and future workload and associated competency requirements, will provide a strategic game plan to tackle the challenges ahead. You’ll be uniquely positioned to align skills to requirements.

Career Development: By focusing on career development, you can create opportunities for employees to expand their skills. This not only increases employee engagement and retention, but allows your organization to offset potential skills gaps.

Learning and Development: Once you’ve identified new opportunities for employees through reorganization, workforce planning, or career development, you may still be faced with skills gaps. Investing in internal learning and development opportunities will help broaden the skillsets of current employees. Remember, most learning occurs through on-the-job experiences and not solely through formal training. Therefore, identifying activities/projects focused on organizational effectiveness, and aligned with employee skill development needs, will have a twofold effect.

Sounds great! So now what?

So, how do organizations implement these solutions? You’re in luck! Follow our mini blog series as we explore tips and tricks you can implement to help address your human capital needs strategically. Each post will focus on a specific solution to the challenges your organization may be facing. Plus, we will show you how using all of these solutions in tandem can lead to a more proactive and successful organizational strategy.

Whitney is a Consultant at FMP Consulting with a Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and experience delivering a variety of human capital solutions to the Federal Government. Outside of the office, she can be found exploring D.C.’s many outdoor activities, including paddle boarding or hiking.