CIOs mull how to compete for IT talent

The council’s Education and Training Committee hosted a brainstorming session at
the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s Virtual Government
conference in Washington to get feedback on its ideas.


The committee in May will submit a final plan to the CIO Council, the Office of
Management and Budget, and the Office of Personnel Management.


The plan has four essential points:


Federal agencies find themselves competing with the private sector for new IT hires.
Industry is jacking up salaries and offering virtually unlimited perks, said Deborah
Caughlin, head of human resources for Computer Associates International Inc. She said one
company reportedly hired a nudist to work on the night shift.


Agriculture deputy CIO Ira Hobbs, co-chairman of the Education and Training Committee,
said the worker shortage dilemma became clear when agencies faced the year 2000 problem.
“All of a sudden, we found out that we were behind,” he said.


The private sector has attacked the retention issue aggressively. Computer Associates
has taken many steps to attract and keep staff. But the war has not been waged with money
alone, Caughlin said.


“Money isn’t everything, but it has to be competitive,” she said.


Computer Associates focuses on creating a positive corporate image, for one thing, she
said. The company has a public relations person devoted to the human resources department
whose job it is to get the company mentioned favorably in the press, Caughlin said.


Christopher Miller, managing director for the Executive Board Working Council for CIOs,
a think tank in Washington that has studied the work force shortage for its private sector
members, said many organizations have streamlined the hiring process to get employees on
the job in as little as four days.


Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., tried a unique approach. It analyzed Web sites
to find those visited by top employees and then put job ads on those sites, Miller said.


The IRS lets people apply for positions through its Web site, as does OPM, which has a
site at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov that lists open federal jobs.


Money clearly is a factor. Hobbs said one of the committee’s recommendations will
be to establish a committee to focus on compensation. “The system we have does not
recognize performance,” he said. “It rewards longevity. That’s something
we’ll have to address.”


Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who spoke at the conference, said he would support a specific
IT pay scale. State Department CIO Fernando Burbano has been promoting the idea of a
separate pay schedule for the government’s IT workers.


Besides pay, Hobbs said, the government needs to do a better job of presenting
benefits, such as vacation and child care. The government ought to give its employees a
score card that lists their benefits, some officials said.


Michael Levine, a program manager with the Treasury Department’s Financial
Management Service, said the government will have to train managers to deal with the new
generation of workers who do not view government service as a lifelong career.


“They will have 10 or 15 jobs in their lives, and they will walk. They aren’t
like us,” Levine said.  

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