By Eric DeKenipp
As Request for Proposals (RFP’s) and Task Orders (TO’s) are released by the government, contractors throughout the Beltway are beginning to realize that government demand for junior-level talent with skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is increasing. As a result, everyone from CEO’s to program managers and other functional support professionals in the industry are struggling to identify talent supply pipelines to meet that demand. That’s why now is the time for government contractors in the STEM arena to begin dusting off their human capital tool kits and revisit strategies designed to attract and retain the workforce of the future.
Educational institutions throughout the United States forecasted the talent shortage in STEM careers years ago but because of the recessionary nature of the economy, retirement rates stalled and the workforce grew to become multi-generational. However as the economy recovers and retirement rates begin to rise, the need for Millennial’s will increase equivalently and the product of the academia’s efforts to engage students in STEM will be yielded. GovCon is now faced with recruitment challenges that organizations haven’t experienced since the end of the great depression and the trend is forecasted to continue over the next 5 years. For this reason, executives will be required to re-prioritize their in-direct dollars and increase investment in human capital programs. For some, this may or may not be possible when margins throughout the industry are sitting at near break-even levels.
As GovCon begins to backfill senior leadership roles vacated by the Traditionalists and Boomers, there will be an increasing need for not only performance management, mentoring and succession planning but also an enhanced focus and investment on employee training and development programs.
There are many reasons for the identified talent gaps mentioned above but the most important to highlight here is that as financial markets continue to recover from the great recession, Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are beginning to retire and as they exit the industry, the effects are trickling down the corporate ladder. Starting at the executive and senior management levels of organizations, the impacts are becoming more evident and as a result we have seen a resurgence of and increased attention placed on things like performance management, mentoring and succession planning programs.
As GovCon begins to backfill senior leadership roles vacated by the Traditionalists and Boomers, there will be an increasing need for not only performance management, mentoring and succession planning but also an enhanced focus and investment on employee training and development programs. In many cases, we may be promoting employees to management when they have little to no experience managing people, developing or managing complex CPM schedules, multi-million dollar budgets’, conducting quality assurance reviews or risk analysis, the list goes on and on. Comprehensive talent development programs will assist with these talent gaps and will be required for GovCon to not only maintain operational capability but also ensure that our client’s mission critical needs are met and satisfaction rates maintained.
As the impacts of increased turnover continue to trickle down organizational charts, contractors are going to be left with even larger talent gaps at the lower tiers of their organizational pyramid. However, with adequate preparation and investment now, they will be able to successfully navigate from the multi-generational workforce that they’ve become accustom to and toward a model where Millennials will account for nearly half of their overall workforce.
It is estimated that by the year 2020, Millennials will account for up to 46% of the overall workforce in the United States and as retirement rates continue to increase, government contractors must begin re-implementing broad (dare I say it)- internship and entry level recruitment programs. The tsunami of STEM talent that contractors have been anxiously awaiting is coming and by establishing targeted recruitment and talent development programs early, GovCon has the opportunity to develop solid relationships, achieve brand recognition within new talent communities and more importantly streamline internal processes and controls to ensure strategies are delivering measurable returns. Lastly and possibly more importantly, by developing these programs early, executives will position their organizations to provide the green talent that the government is seeking and truly differentiate their organizations from the competition.
About the Author: Eric DeKenipp is the Senior Manager of Human Capital at Vencore, Inc. and a candidate for the Loudoun County School Board in 2015.