recruitment (Wright Studio/

OPM keeps hiring on track with USA Staffing upgrades

Although officials didn’t foresee the complications COVID-19 would introduce into the hiring system when USA Staffing was finished in 2018, the Office of Personnel Management’s completely virtual hiring process has helped keep the government running relatively smoothly throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Particularly helpful is the onboarding interface, which human resources employees at the 100 agencies that USA Staffing supports can use to assess, select and onboard candidates. HR officers can manage forms and communicate with potential and new hires completely online using a streamlined, standardized and automated process that is integrated with the main staffing functions of USA Staffing.

“OPM created USA Staffing’s Onboarding capability in response to customer agency requirements to extend the system’s features through the entrance-on-duty phase, which starts when the candidate receives a tentative offer and concludes when the candidate has completed all required onboarding forms and arrives for the first day of work,” OPM spokeswoman Eden Hill wrote in an email response to GCN. More than 250,000 people joined the federal workforce through the system in 2019.

When the pandemic struck, and interviewing, orientation and administering oaths of office could no longer happen in person, OPM upgraded USA Staffing so that users could shift remaining in-person tasks to virtual ones. The system is a custom online application that OPM developed, hosts and maintains.

The onboarding capability has two aspects: the internal-facing interface that HR workers access to manage forms and communicate with new hires and the public-facing interface that applicants can use. It includes an “ask once, use many” questionnaire, where applicants provide their name and other basic information. Then, other forms that require this information are automatically populated. A dashboard lets applicants see what forms have been approved or what’s left to complete.

“USA Staffing has data integrations (or interconnections) in place with agency systems to initiate the suitability and/or Identity, Credential, and Access Management (ICAM) process,” Hill wrote. “These interconnections help facilitate and streamline onboarding by reducing duplicate data entry across [HR information technology] systems, improve data quality and streamline the onboarding process overall.”

When it’s time to onboard a new employee, an HR worker creates a new-hire record and sends an offer letter through a configurable process that lets the HR official assign tasks and workflows both to the new employee and to other agency staff members to ensure that all required forms and documents are completed, Hill wrote.

Before USA Staffing, agency HR staff manually planned and tracked onboarding using myriad methods, including phone calls, email messages, fax and mail to collect information from potential and new hires.

“On their first day of work, HR and the new-hires are tasked with completing a daunting stack of paper forms on which they must manually write much of the same information repeatedly,” Hill wrote. “Then, HR must scan all the forms into the eOPF (Electronic Official Personnel Folder) system.”

With the new system, HR workers can offer jobs online and use system-generated emails and workflow templates. All forms and documents are transmitted to eOPF through USA Staffing’s interconnection, making the entire process seamless and virtual.

In addition, the agency can monitor specific HR and new-hire activities during the onboarding phase to identify any bottlenecks that could change the overall hiring time and process.

New employees, for their part, receive a job offer via an email with a unique link to their onboarding record. After they accept the offer, authenticate their identity and log in to the system, they respond to an automatically generated questionnaire that collects the data necessary to complete the forms the HR worker has assigned.

“The online management of the process saves agencies time and money by reducing duplication in data entry and eliminating the cost of shipping and routing paper documents,” Hill wrote. “Agencies can also leverage USA Staffing Onboarding to reduce time to hire, as new-hires can complete most forms and tasks virtually, and both agency HR staff and the new hire can track onboarding progress in real time to ensure all forms and tasks are completed.”

OPM launched the onboarding capability in 2010. Today, it is part of the core USA Staffing Talent Acquisition System and is updated monthly. The agency plans to make the new-hire interface completely mobile-friendly and implement data interconnections with other government systems that play a role in onboarding, including the Selective Service System, e-QIP (via the National Background Investigations Bureau) and E-Verify, to further automate and streamline the onboarding process, Hill wrote.

USA Staffing Onboarding was the ACT/IAC 2020 Igniting Innovation Award Overall Winner.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.


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