Project Management and System Implementation

OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT (OPM) PRESIDENTIAL MANAGEMENT FELLOWS (PMF) TALENT ACQUISITION SYSTEM (TAS)

About

The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF), first established in 1977, was recently reintroduced by President Obama's Executive Order 13562 (December 2010) as one of three excepted-service Pathways Programs that aim to recruit recent graduates into entry-level civil-service positions within the federal government. The PMF program is the flagship leadership development program that targets advanced degree candidates for a two-year fellowship and ultimately conversion to a fast-tracked federal position. In order to select the top talent with the highest leadership potential across the nation, OPM needed an innovative online application and assessment system along with a rigorous in-person assessment to manage the expected 15,000 annual candidates.

Objective

COE was tasked with designing, developing and implementing a robust talent acquisition system to modernize the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program application and assessment process. The objective of the new system was to create a strong pipeline of potential government leaders, boost the program's reputation as the premier federal leadership development program, and to increase agency demand for presidential management fellows.

Challenge

OPM was under immense pressure to ensure that the PMF Talent Acquisition System (PMF TAS) was well-received by candidates, did not encounter any errors in processing applications or communicating statuses, and implemented a secure on-line assessment that identified top notch candidates. It was expected to meet extremely high standards in its ability look and feel "presidential" to the public, deliver innovative yet fair talent selection methods, and host an integrated IT platform that is impeccable in capturing, managing, and reporting candidate information. The release of the new PMF TAS also coincided with the November 2012 presidential election, which only heightened pressure to deliver a thoroughly-tested IT system to the public with minimal technical complications.

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Solution

The Center for Organizational Excellence (COE), as the Project Management Office (PMO), led a team of application developers, technical experts, and industrial organizational (I/O) psychologists in delivering the PMF TAS, an integrated IT system that automates, streamlines, and improves the PMF Program's ability to identify the next generation of government leaders. The secure, cloud-based application and online assessment, along with the custom-designed in-person assessment, creates a rigorous screening and selection process for the PMF Program Office (PMF PO). It simultaneously optimizes the applicant experience by securely collecting only pertinent information during the application phase and administering assessments that produce reliable and valid scores. The PMF PO can effectively collect, manage, and analyze candidate information while minimizing adverse impact and ensuring legal defensibility of its selections.

The PMF TAS launched with a contemporary user-interface that significantly improved the end-user experience with a logical interface that stores applicant progress and reduces response times during the assessment phase. The PMF PO uses the back-end HR Applicant Tracking System (HR ATS) to monitor application statuses, adjudicate veteran's preference and disability claims, generate analytic reports, and send email notifications to candidates who have been selected as Semi-Finalists and Finalists. The PMF TAS also has a built-in self-scheduling system that facilitates the in-person assessments, job fairs, and other PMF-related events. Federal agencies can also access advanced search features to find the right talent for their job openings.

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Results

On November 5, 2012, OPM was able to successfully launch the PMF program for what was expected to be a two-week application period. As a result of the effects of Hurricane Sandy, OPM extended the application period an additional week to close on November 26, 2012. COE quickly scaled up its system support to accommodate the extended application deadline. There were 15,694 candidates who applied to the program, 1,564 Finalists underwent the in-person assessment, and 663 Finalists were selected for the PMF Class of 2013. With minimal technical disruptions during and after the application period, the PMF PO was able to focus its attention on responding to programmatic inquiries, managing its social networking sites, and ensuring that candidates had a positive application and assessment experience. COE has recently launched an enhanced version of the PMF TAS that includes a dual-track application process to attract traditional PMF candidates, as well as those with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) focus. 

As a result of its strong project management oversight, COE was able work under tight deadlines, manage unexpected change, and minimize risks in order to deliver the state-of-the-art PMF Talent Acquisition System. The PMF TAS continues to serve as OPM's technical platform for creating a talent pipeline for the nation's top leadership positionsin the federal government.

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