Putting the Federal Labor Force in the Cloud

Susan Hall
Slide Show

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In discussing ways to attract a new generation to government work, Deloitte Consulting has proposed applying the concepts of cloud computing to the federal work force. Its vision, called Fed Cloud, calls for a cross-agency labor pool using shared services, including cloud applications on shared hardware. Since much government work is project-based, managers could build teams by reaching into the cloud for the talent they need for the length of the project.

Deloitte execs, in an interview on Federal News Radio, explain that when the government work force system, the General Schedule, was created in 1949, clerks made up 70 percent of the labor force, at levels around GS 5-9. Today the federal labor force overwhelmingly is at GS 12-15, many holding master's degrees or Ph.D.s. Those workers particularly - economists, program managers, IT specialists - fit into this model of a cloud labor pool. (Not all workers do. Deloitte estimates about 580,000 federal jobs fit the model.)


Big Data analysis is a good example. Who knew that would be such a hot job and those people would be so hard to find? The government has a lot of statisticians whose skills could be upgraded to serve a variety of agencies. And when a new problem arises, rather than setting up a new agency and hiring new people, it could be addressed with talent from the cloud.


Deloitte's Dan Helfrich said:

[The] cloud is "about pooling resources to create more efficiency to scale up or down.

The model gives employees more variety and flexibility in their work, something Millennials, especially, crave. While admitting that HR folks are likely to resist the idea because they lose control, Helfrich predicted that performance management actually would be better:

When the project's over, you aren't going to be next door in my office everyday, (so) I'm more likely to be more transparent and candid in the feedback I provide.

Deloitte suggests a performance-management system based on Experience Points (XP), a concept drawn from video games. Workers could gain these points through projects completed, undergoing more training and taking on leadership roles.


The government already is farming work out; this model could further decentralize government work in Washington, D.C., because the employees wouldn't have to even live in this country. And in answering potential critics that this would just be a way to eliminate more jobs, John Palguta, vice president for the Partnership for Public Service, noted that federal jobs already are disappearing amid government belt-tightening. Indeed, government leads all sectors in job cuts this year, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The Deloitte execs stressed that the idea is to employ the best skills for the projects at hand in the most efficient way.


With federal agencies also forced to cut $4 billion in real estate - my colleague Ann All has written about federal efforts with shared work space and telework - so this idea could help with that as well.


So far, this is only a proposal, one unlikely to be adopted in the next couple of years. However, the Deloitte execs offered three ways agencies could send up a trial balloon, if they're interested in this:


  • Set up projects and let workers agency-wide volunteer.
  • Ask for volunteers to rotate assignments.
  • Set up a pilot Fed Cloud within the agency.

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