The Role of Competencies in the OPM Hiring Process: Supporting Mission Outcomes.

Author:Clay, Pamela J.

The federal government is migrating to a competency-based approach to hiring, which means that competencies must be included in job announcements (JOA) and used in JOA assessment questionnaires. Competencies will be used in the hiring process instead of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). A potential game-changer, this change may positively and profoundly impact the Department of Defense's (DoD) hiring process.

The migration to a competency-based hiring approach presents an opportunity for hiring managers to consistently receive candidates who match the requirements of a position, which can equate to higher retention rates and improved overall mission outcomes. The requirement to use competencies in the hiring process will apply to all federal agencies and becomes effective in DoD as components migrate to the USA Staffing upgrade, the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) hiring software solution for federal agencies. By 2018, all DoD components will have migrated to the upgraded software. During this time, OPM is also scheduled to discontinue the USA Staffing legacy system. If hiring managers and human resource (HR) specialists are not aware of the USA Staffing upgrade, now is a prime opportunity to become informed about the upgrade. Some components are already using competencies in the hiring process; however, use throughout DoD is not consistent.

The Big Picture

In the 2016-2021 FM Strategic Workforce Plan appendix, the financial management (FM) Office of Secretary of Defense functional community manager (OFCM) included a strategy to use competency-based assessments in the hiring process. The goal is for the FM community to increase manager satisfaction with applicant referrals. The FM OFCM identified this as a problem because the USA Staffing self-assessment questionnaires potentially result in applicants artificially inflating their skill levels to ensure they are on the referral list. The result is that some managers believe some applicants on the referral list are unqualified for the position. The USA Staffing upgrade of using a competency-based approach to hiring could potentially eliminate this problem.

The Starting Point for Hiring Managers and HR Specialists: Competency Development

The good news is that the DoD FM community already has approved, prescribed competencies for the FM workforce, consisting of 24 competencies, including definitions, with five proficiency levels for each competency, referred to as competency models. The DoD Instruction 1400.25, Volume 250, titled DoD Civilian Personnel Management System: Civilian Strategic Human Capital Planning (updated in 2016), defines "competency" as an observable, measurable pattern of knowledge, abilities, skills, or other characteristics that individuals need to perform work roles or occupational functions...

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