Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
Strengthening the federal workforce requires hiring talented individuals and fostering their development into successful public administrators. Effective organizations recruit, hire and develop talented individuals to achieve agency goals. Doing so is gaining more importance as baby boomers retire en masse over the coming decade taking with them skills and talents proven through years of experience.
Agencies are faced with the question of whether new hires with experience (experts) or recent graduates directly out of school with limited or no field training (novices) best fit their needs. We intuitively know that training and education alone cannot replace experience. However, it is not altogether clear what advantage agencies get when hiring experienced individuals. New research in the public administration literature assesses the accuracy of managers’ assumptions about the value of experience, the gaps in novices’ understanding of public service and potential means of quickly advancing novices to developing the expertise necessary to excel in the federal workforce.
We assume human resource specialists and line managers have an intuitive sense of the relative value of education and experience on job performance. This is why job announcements include minimum qualifications for education and years of experience. The relative costs and benefits of hiring novices or experts will be increasingly important as the baby boomer generation exits the public workforce. Simply put, there will likely be fewer experienced workers to fill government and nonprofit positions. Novices will likely be less expensive in terms of salary demands, but more expensive in terms of training and professional development. The question for managers then becomes what an organization gets when they hire someone with experience, an expert. The literature is just now identifying those assumptions and testing their validity.
First, managers revealed their assumptions…
Managers were asked to describe the characteristics and benefits they expect when hiring experienced employees. Qualitative analysis identified four themes in their responses.
Then we tested their assumptions…
Managers’ assumptions were tested by asking experts and novices to solve a problem. The results suggest managers’ assumptions are largely accurate. In the political realm, novices presented simple arguments and factual information while experts had a clearer understanding of organization and political processes and a longer term perspective on individual projects. As expected, experts exhibited greater understanding of how public organizations work and more creative problem solving skills. Interestingly, there were no differences in how experts and novices related to stakeholders.
Things to Consider for Practitioners
These findings lead to a number of suggestions to strengthen the federal workforce:
Things to Consider for Educators
Educators can also help inexperienced students understand the context and relative importance of factual information. This can be done by:
Each of these suggestions will strengthen the federal workforce as baby boomers retire. Experts should be hired when agencies need new hires to make an immediate impact. When hiring a novice is appropriate, they should be given every opportunity to move quickly to a high level of expertise.
Author(s): George W. Dougherty, Jr., Ph.D., is an assistant professor, MPPM Director and Public Service Degree Coordinator in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Meagan Van Gelder, Ed.D, is the Academic Program Coordinator in the School of Public Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.