Thursday, May 24th, 2012 - 14:44
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy
stands at the forefront in helping the
nation meet its energy, scientific,
environmental, and national security
goals, while also developing and
deploying new energy technologies to
reduce dependence on foreign energy
The success of meeting such a broad mission rests on the pursuit of an effective human capital approach and workforce strategy. “The department has one of the most diverse [missions] of any department in the federal government. It spans the sciences, from concept demonstration to applied engineering in the areas of technology, energy, and—a little known fact—in national security,” says Michael Kane, chief human capital officer at DOE.
Kane is responsible for the agency’s effective management of human capital policies and programs. “I am the advisor to DOE senior leadership,” notes Kane, “on how we acquire, retain, and actually deploy talent. It’s about ensuring that our programs have the intellectual expertise needed to meet mission.” He explains that the department is organized around three core mission areas: nuclear security, focusing on nonproliferation and preventing the spread of nuclear materials, and the environmental cleanup that is the Cold War’s legacy; the energy portfolio, dealing with everything from fossil fuels to the development of renewable technologies; and the science portfolio, looking at science in the largest sense, and pursuing new discoveries and projects that industry may not want to tackle.
With such an expansive technical portfolio, the department requires a highly skilled workforce. “We need highly specialized experts such as nuclear engineers, scientists, and physicists. When you start hiring in very specialized areas, it’s sometimes difficult to find those people and bring them in with the pay scales available in the federal government.” To compete, Congress has provided the department with unique pay authorities. For example, “we have a pilot program in the National Nuclear Security Administration that actually deals
with paying specialized engineers more money. It’s a pay-forperformance plan. It’s a five-year pilot, it’s in year four, and it’s working quite well,” notes Kane.
Kane underscores that an educated and proficient workforce is more critical now than ever for his department. Finding, attracting, and paying the right person with the right skills is only one of many challenges he faces. Getting these prospective employees onboard takes far too long. This reality further jeopardizes Kane’s ability to plan for the long term. Given lengthy hiring processes and skill shortages, Kane has sought to improve the hiring process throughout the department by streamlining the recruitment and hiring processes. Hiring
reform is a cornerstone in his effort to transform DOE’s human capital system. “Time is a driver. When you slow it down you’ll lose opportunity; it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re hiring somebody just out of college or an experienced physicist. On average the end-to-end hiring process took about 164 days, can you imagine that? We now have that down to about 93 days,” declares Kane. He’s using the OPM End-to-End Hiring Roadmap as a reference model for integrating, streamlining, and measuring workforce planning, recruitment, hiring process, security and suitability, and orientation.
As part of this effort, DOE is streamlining and standardizing all job opportunity announcements (JOAs). “We’re driving very hard to make sure we turn those announcements around as quickly as we can. We’re actually having employees try to reach out and talk to the individuals right after we get that announcement closed and the selection made,” explains Kane. DOE is also developing standard position descriptions (PDs) to the maximum extent possible as well as investing in and enhancing the use of technologies to streamline and monitor hiring processes.