Tuesday, February 24, 2009

United States: GAO Report Recommends Increased Communication among Agencies to Enhance Retention and Hiring of Older Workers

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report recommending that Office of Personnel Management (OPM) broadly disseminate agency-developed promising practices to hire and retain older workers. In putting together "Older Workers: Enhanced Communication among Federal Agencies Could Improve Strategies for Hiring and Retaining Experienced Workers", GAO interviewed officials at three agencies with high proportions of workers eligible to retire and identified agencies’ promising practices to hire and retain older workers.

GAO notes that the proportion of federal employees eligible to retire is growing. In fact, at four agencies—-the Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Small Business Administration, and the Department of Transportation-—46% of the workforce will be eligible to retire by 2012. However, GAO also notes that the federal government has historically enjoyed relatively high retention rates, with 40% or more of federal employees remaining in the workforce for at least five years after becoming eligible. In addition, in fiscal year 2007, federal agencies hired almost 14,000 new workers who were 55 years of age or older and brought back about 5,400 federal retirees to address workforce needs.

The three agencies GAO examined rely on older workers in different ways: USAID brings back its knowledgeable and skilled retirees as contractors to fill short-term job assignments and to help train and develop the agency’s growing number of newly hired staff. SSA uses complex statistical models to project potential retirements in mission critical occupations and uses these data to develop recruitment efforts targeted at a broad pool of candidates, including older workers. HUD relies primarily on older workers to pass down knowledge and skills to junior staff. In addition, GAO noted that other agencies have developed practices that are useful in tapping older workers to meet short-term needs, such as the Department of State, which has developed databases to match interested retirees with short-term assignments requiring particular skills.

GAO concludes that while at least three agencies have developed their own practices that show promise in recruiting and retaining talented older workers who have needed and specialized skills, little attention has been paid to sharing it with other agencies. Accordingly, it calls on OPM to "develop a systematic approach, which may include communicating through the CHCO Council, to share information broadly across the federal government about agency-developed promising practices in recruitment and retention of older, experienced workers to meet their workforce needs."

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office Report Summary of GAO-09-206 (February 24, 2009)

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