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Talent Marketplaces for Composable Government Agencies

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Bill Brantley
July 9, 2021

There is a growing trend in businesses toward the marketplace model for talent from the directed model of management. You are familiar with the directed model where managers tell employees what to do, how to do it, when to do it and where to do it. Employees are given job descriptions that detail what the employees’ exact duties are. Performance plans are written each year, and the employee is measured on how well they adhered to the performance plan. I admit, as a federal employee, that I constantly pushed the boundaries of my job description. However, closer to the annual performance review, I made sure to demonstrate how I fulfilled all parts of my performance plan.

You know that most governments have occupational classifications that describe the employees’ knowledge, skills and abilities. For example, I am classified in the 1750 Instructional Systems Series, which details what I should know and do to be competent in my position. However, I have also taken on, “Other duties as assigned,” when necessary. As I have moved up in my federal career, much of my job has become, “Other duties as assigned.”

In President Obama’s second term, the Office of Personnel Management created a talent marketplace where federal employees could contribute their talents and skills to government-wide projects. Modeled after Google’s 20 Percent Time Program, Open Opportunities lists part-time opportunities and short-term details. I have participated in Open Opportunities both as a part-time detailee and a beneficiary of the program. Open Opportunities allow federal agencies to quickly find talent to fulfill the short-term needs of the agencies when the regular federal hiring process would take too long and be too burdensome.

The Rise of Talent Marketplaces

A talent marketplace is a, “Real-time, two-sided marketplace, connecting employees with various types of work and development opportunities suited to their skills and aspirations.” Josh Bersin, noted thought leader in human resources, describes the mind shift in managing employees in a talent marketplace as, “Set[ting] guidelines, create[ing] goals and enable[ing] and empower[ing] people to act.” According to Bersin, talent marketplaces will almost consistently outperform the directed model of management because talent marketplaces can adapt and act more quickly. Many commercial enterprises such as Unilever, Nestle, HSBC, MetLife, Mastercard and others are customers of Gloat, which provides a talent marketplace for these companies. Back in 2012, Deloitte proposed a talent marketplace model for the United States federal government.

GovCloud: The Future of Government Work

GovCloud uses the model of cloud computing to create a pool of government workers who would be dispatched to, “Small, mission-focused agencies,” as needed to help in carrying out the agencies’ missions. The impetus for switching to GovCloud is that government work is becoming more creative, collaborative and complex. However, government work is structured for the clerical work of the 1950s. As a result, agencies are slow to adapt to changing requirements and needs of citizens.

GovCloud helps federal agencies become quicker to adapt to changing circumstances. Deloitte defines GovCloud as a, “New model for government based on team collaboration, whereby workforce resources can be surged to provide services to government agencies on-demand.” GovCloud has three parts: “A cloud of government workers, thin executive agencies and shared services.” The benefits of GovCloud include the easier exchange of knowledge, more flexible federal work, expanded collaboration and better focusing of resources. I was particularly attracted to the GovCloud concept because it reminded me of my Ph.D. work in building a new organizational model for public agencies.

A New Organizational Model

I studied organizational development when I began an MBA in project management in 2001. I continued my organizational development research when I started my Ph.D. work in 2005. First, I dived deeply into the literature with a focus on how public organizations fail. Then, as I continued to refine the model, I expanded my focus on strategic management, organizational agility and organizational health. In 2008, I began working for the United States Office of Personnel Management and moved to the newly formed Strategic Workforce Planning group in 2013. During my time in the Strategic Workforce Planning group, I kept adding to my new organizational model.

At the center of the new organizational model is the Business Engine. The Business Engine is a talent marketplace where, “Work is performed by a network of project teams loosely organized into portfolios and programs. There are few fixed processes, and these processes will be heavily automated using artificial technology systems using blockchain technologies and deep-learning algorithms. The teams will use agile project management, human-centered design and adaptive case management to manage the work.”

Last month, I wrote about the composable government agency where advances in citizen development and packaged business capabilities can help create highly adaptable agencies. Add a talent marketplace to the composable government agency, and you will have agile government agencies that can rapidly react to new volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environments that governments face today.

Author: Bill Brantley teaches at the University of Louisville and the University of Maryland. He also works as a Federal employee for the U.S. Navy’s Inspector General Office. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the views of his employers. You can reach him at http://billbrantley.com.

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