NASA has taken action to rebalance the aging workforce and adopted a policy and goal that 50% of all new civil servant hires will be fresh-out hires. About a year ago, representatives from the next generation community attended the NASA Strategic Management Council (SMC) at Stennis Space Center to stimulate a discussion on strategic workforce issues. The discussion focused on long-term effects of current hiring practices and the upcoming gap in US human space flight on the NASA mission and specific actions that the SMC and next generation community could each take. Over the past year, numerous discussions and associated activities have taken place throughout the agency, many of which we have discussed here on openNASA. All of this hard work, by so many throughout NASA, culminated two weeks ago on March 19th at the most recent SMC. I’m really excited to share the following email I received with the openNASA community which documents the results of the March SMC meeting. Thank you to everyone who has been involved and for everyone who shares this vision for NASA.
I’d like to share with you some very important workforce policy news. Two weeks ago on March 19, the Agency’s Strategic Management Council (SMC) decided to take action to rebalance our aging workforce. It is now agency policy that we have a goal of 50% of all new civil servant hires will be fresh-out hires. I list the main action here, then the remaining actions below.
Action #1: Increase the number of fresh outs, such as adding requirement to performance standards and cluster hiring of co-ops prior to last semester — incorporate the following words, and a specific goal of 50% hiring of fresh outs into SES and supervisory performance plans as soon as possible:
– Ensure support for short and long-term programmatic and institutional needs by providing a workforce that is balanced appropriately by skills, level of experience, and demographics.
– Ensure that this is flowed down to directorates, divisions, and programs/projects. Measure performance against this goal.
BACKGROUND: As you may recall, the SMC has raised next generation workforce issues to be an agency-level risk item. It was first acknowledged in April 2008 with a discussion of the long-term strategic risk that is posed by not having many people in the aerospace business under age 38. There were actions out of that SMC for centers to hold “cross-generational discussions” to generate ideas to tackle this issue. A group of young civil servants took the feedback from these discussions last summer and reported 7 theme areas back to the December 2008 SMC. Further actions came out of that SMC for NASA’s Office of Human Capital Management to prepare implementation plans for the 7 theme areas and those plans are what were approved (and expanded upon) at the March 2009 SMC.
– The March 2009 SMC charts are attached so you can see what was proposed.
– The December 2008 SMC charts and the cross-generational report are the lead news story here: http://nasapeople.nasa.gov/
– The April 2008 SMC charts that triggered this whole discussion are here: http://nasapeople.nasa.gov/NASANextGen.htm
IMPLICATIONS: The SMC has decided that the risk of a shortfall in critical skills is so great, that dramatic action was needed to change these trends. Today, we do very little civil servant hiring. Not many people leave NASA in any given year, so not many spots open up to hire someone. However, the average age of NASA is now 47 and yet the average age of our few new hires is just shy of 40. Only 19% of recent hires have been in their 20’s. It’s been no wonder that the space business continues to age rapidly.
If we get close to the 50% fresh-out hiring goal this year, that’ll probably mean more than doubling the number of new people in their 20’s and early 30’s that we hire. “Fresh-out” is now being defined as someone who is within 3 years of their “terminal degree.” They can be 23 or 43, but they must be about to or have just finished a degree. Further, if an experiment run at MSFC this past year is any indication, applying this policy NASA-wide means the agency’s average age could actually begin to turn around and start to come back down.
For those of you who like to be able to see things with your own eyes, you can check out the hiring information posted to the NASA WICN system to see this policy begin to take effect:
OTHER ACTIONS: The SMC also heard the themes brought forward about making sure better development opportunities are available to those already in the civil service. They have issued a number of other actions:
– Explore the possibility of hiring co-op students at HQ.
– Advertise NASA leadership development, at all levels, to promote leadership training and identify high-potential candidates.
– Ensure Agency-wide consistency and quality of mentoring programs.
– Implement new employee rotation programs.
– Expand, and broadly advertise, communication technologies
– Institute a business resource management model that provides employees time for innovation.
– Motivate employees, e.g. set aside launch tickets for employees, at all levels, at each center.
Please feel free to disseminate this information to other NASA colleagues who might be interested.