Government’s innovative approach to skills sharing

Nicole Blake Johnson at GovLoop: “For both managers and employees, it often seems there aren’t enough hours in the day to tackle every priority project.

But what if there was another option — a way for federal managers to get the skills they need internally and for employees to work on projects they’re interested in but unaware of?

Maybe you’re the employee who is really into data analytics or social media, but that’s not a part of your regular job duties. What if you had the support of your supervisor to help out on an analytics project down the hall or in a field office across the country?

I’m not making up hypothetical scenarios. These types of initiatives are actually taking shape at federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Social Security Administration, Health and Human Services and Commerce departments.

Many agencies are in the pilot phase of rolling out their programs, which are versions of a governmentwide initiative called GovConnect. The initiative was inspired by an EPA program called Skills Marketplace that dates back to 2011.(Read more about GovConnect here.)

“We felt like we had something really promising at EPA, and we wanted to share it with other government agencies,” said Noha Gaber, EPA’s Director of Internal Communications. “So we actually pitched it to OPM and several other agencies, and that ended up becoming GovConnect.”

“The goal of GovConnect is to develop federal workforce skills through cross-agency collaboration and teamwork, to enable more agile response to mission demands without being unnecessarily limited by organizational silos,” said Melissa Kline Lee, who serves as Program Manager of GovConnect at the Office of Personnel Management. “As part of the President’s Management Agenda, the Office of Personnel Management and Environmental Protection Agency are using the GovConnect pilot to help agencies test and scale new approaches to workforce development.”…

Managers post projects or tasks in the online marketplace, which was developed using the agency’s existing SharePoint environment. Projects include clear tasks that employees can accomplish using up to 20 percent of their workweek or less. Projects cannot be open-ended and should not exceed one year.

From there, any employee can view the projects, evaluate what skills or competencies are needed and apply for the position. Managers review the applications and conduct interviews before selecting a candidate. Here are the latest stats for Skills Marketplace as of November 2015:

  • Managers posted 358 projects in the marketplace
  • Employees submitted 577 applications
  • More than 750 people have created profiles for the marketplace

Gaber shared one example involving an employee from the Office of Pesticide Programs and staff from the Office of Environmental Information (OEI), which is the main IT office at EPA. The employee brought to the team technical expertise and skills in geographic information systems to support OEI’s Toxic Release Inventory Program, which tracks data on toxic chemicals being produced by different facilities.

The benefits were twofold: The employee established new connections in a different part of the agency, and his home office benefited from the experiences and knowledge he gleaned while working on the project….(More)