The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has been working to reinvent the workforce of the future by making it more inclusive, agile and engaged, and equipped with the right skills.

During a Federal News Network webinar today, OPM’s Deputy Associate Director for Strategic Workforce Planning Jason Barke discussed how those three pillars fit into the government’s new, hybrid work environment to enable mission delivery.

In March of this year, OPM released its future of work guidelines that emphasize the long-term role of remote work and telework, as well as the increasingly common hybrid work environment.

“When we released that guidance back in March, it really laid out a nice foundation for OPM and the Federal government – where we were thinking about going with the future of the work,” Barke said.

“We start with inclusive, so really an inclusive environment if you think about it is where everyone is welcome, anyone can see themselves working for the Federal government,” Barke explained. “The government is an attractive place to work, no matter your background, education level, location, other factors that sometimes could limit employment in other sectors … That is really an important piece – how we embrace the employee experience. We want to ensure that there’s equity when we develop and implement our policies.”

He continued, “The second piece is agile engaged, I think we’ve learned a lot coming out of the pandemic, how we are agile and how we need to be agile. And so, when we think about the hybrid work environment, it really helps the government pivot quickly, to be able to put resources and other work that’s most important and urgent without permanently relocating employees or having to rehire. We see us having this agility to be able to move around within our own workspaces.”

The third and final pillar – the right skills – Barke said is the “piece that really lends us to be able to do mission accomplishment and being able to go out and recruit and hire the people that we really need to fulfill these missions.”

“The access to talent is critical as the Federal government starts competing with the private sector to hire individuals with these critical skills. We see a lot of high-demand positions where we see a lot of fluidity such as cyber and STEM positions,” Barke said.

“Can we upskill and reskill? We know that there’s a lot of technology that’s coming forward, such as generative AI that’s going to impact our workforce, and so we want to make sure that we are fluid and agile,” he added.

Barke also highlighted the training resources that OPM offers Federal agencies as they transition to a hybrid workforce.

The trainings – which OPM has conducted for over 20,000 Federal employees to date – focus on the norms of a hybrid environment, such as how to effectively communicate, what the appropriate dress code is, and whether or not to turn on your camera during remote meetings.

“Those were the modules that we walked through, and we had very interactive sessions. They were very engaged,” Barke said. “We did a number of in-person sessions, we did some virtual sessions. This was embraced by our director who helped kick things off for many of the sessions and gave some opening remarks to really elevate the importance of it and the need for this in the Federal government.”

Barke said his team is currently in the process of creating more in person and virtual training sessions to guide the future of hybrid work within the Federal government.

The north star for the future of the work planning, Barke said, is delivering on mission.

“We’ve talked about inclusion, we talked about what our workforce looks like, does our workforce look like the way that we want it to look like, how do we improve the recruitment, so I think all those things, and probably in a nutshell, is a data-driven workforce planning model that gets us to mission delivery,” he said.

Barke concluded, “As we start thinking about that workforce planning, foresight planning is really going to be critical in what we do and so that we don’t say static and so we don’t stay reactive – that we’re really forward thinking.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.