WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Workforce issues impact big and small firms alike

Companies in the government contracting market focus on more than just filling their open positions. Today’s leading human capital strategies are focused on issues as wide-ranging as diversity and inclusion, training, quality of life, and of course new hires.

We had a full morning at our WT Power Breakfast last Friday where we heard from executives from Leidos, Science Applications International Corp., LMI, CACI International, Perspecta, Dovel Technologies, Brillient Corp., and Incadence.

Dovel, Brillient and Incadence represented small and mid-sized companies in the market but it was remarkable how in sync they were with their larger counterparts.

Incadence Chief Human Resources Officer Ericka Shirley shared the stage with Thomas Jones, senior talent acquisition specialist from Perspecta; and retired Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, vice president of veterans and military affairs at CACI, on a panel focused on the value of hiring veterans.

All spoke about how veteran hires bring a deep customer focus and a strong work ethic. Hiring a veteran isn’t just about doing something nice for someone who has served our nation. Veterans can bring a depth of understanding of the customer’s mission that is critical in today’s competitive market and can help differentiate one company from another.

The Workforce of Tomorrow panel with Dovel’s chief HR officer Kelly Demaitre, Brillient’s chief people officer Margaret Meiers, and SAIC's chief technology officer Charles Onstott talked about how they are working to prepare their current workforce to be adaptable.

At Brillient, the company is training just about everyone to use robotic process automation in their jobs. This includes back office personnel as well, Meiers said.

The idea is to build the company’s expertise in RPA, while also using it to make the company more efficient, Meiers said.

Onstott recommended watching tech trends, which at times seem to be rapid fire. But in the government market, the customer is often the last to adopt the last two exit a technology. This puts the burden on contractors to adopt new technologies and solutions while retaining expertise in older technologies.

Our panel on diversity featured Donna Diedreich, chief HR officer at LMI; and Sarah Roberts, Leidos vice president of talent development and inclusion.

One of the main takeaways there is that you can have a diverse workforce but unless there is a culture of inclusion, you never reap the benefit of a diverse workforce. Inclusion means that you are valued and treated with respect regardless of how diverse the workforce is.

But to make this work, senior leadership including the CEO have to see the value of diversity and inclusion.

And there is business return. Diederich said that one of the reasons LMI puts a focus on diversity is because its customers are diverse. There is a business value in looking like your customer.

Some other highlights:

  • Schools in the Washington D.C. region graduate more people with IT skills than are hired. The message is that quality of life issues like high cost of living and traffic are driving people away.
  • Half of the incentive-plan that lured Amazon’s HQ2 to Arlington, Virginia dealt with human capital issues and how the region could deliver enough workers.
  • Making employees embedded on customer sites feel like they are part of your company is a perennial challenge.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 30, 2019 at 9:59 AM

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