Flexibility, Funds Wanted for Workforce

WASHINGTON (05/03/2000) - Greater flexibility and a bigger budget to recruit and retain workers - especially information technology workers - will make it easier for agencies to find and keep the right people in today's tight labor market, Roberta Gross, inspector general at NASA, said at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

For example, Gross said she would like the ability to conduct pay banding, which would allow NASA to offer a range of salaries to employees within a certain level, such as GS-11. The Office of Personnel Management is developing legislation to give agencies authority to design a broad pay banding system.

In addition, government's lengthy hiring process means that agencies are losing potential candidates, Gross said, speaking at the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia Subcommittee. IT security, criminal investigators and auditors in particular are in high demand but often take months to hire.

Incentives are available, such as recruitment bonuses and retention allowances, to attract and retain workers, but agencies don't use them very often, said Henry Romero, associate director for Workforce Compensation and Performance at the Office of Personnel Management. OPM is looking at making incentives more flexible, including allowing a variety of payment methods, he said.

More money would go a long way in helping agencies deal with the recruitment and retention problem and encourage agencies to use incentives more often.

NASA's Office of the Inspector General has only $75,000 in bonuses to spread across 200 people.

But perhaps the most important step would be to fully implement the 1994 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, which called for closing the public private pay gap over 10 years, testified Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

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