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MSP #1: IRS RECRUITMENT, HIRING AND EMPLOYEE RETENTION

Quality Taxpayer Service and Protection of Taxpayer Rights Are Directly Linked to the IRS’s Need to Improve Its Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention Strategies

TAS Recommendations and IRS Responses

1
1.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #1-1

Hire additional HR Specialists to meet hiring demand.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS plans to implement this recommendation in full, contingent upon funding and hiring approvals. We have prepared a staffing plan to hire 200+ hiring support positions.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: The IRS plans to implement this recommendation in full, contingent upon funding and hiring approvals. We have prepared a staffing plan to hire 200+ hiring support positions. To be completed September 2021, contingent on funding approvals.

Update: As of September 15, 2021, the IRS has hired an additional 206 hiring support staff positions.

TAS RESPONSE: It is encouraging that the IRS plans to implement this recommendation in full. TAS understands that HCO has begun implementing this recommendation and has announced approximately 40 of those positions as of April 2021.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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2.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #1-2

Restructure internal hiring processes to improve cycle times.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS has already implemented this recommendation. We restructured the hiring process, more than doubling hiring production and eliminating the hiring request backlog. A key aspect of this success was the adoption of a hiring “workstation” concept, a best practice at other federal agencies, which aligns hiring activities across the three major phases of the hiring process. This model improves transparency, accountability, and efficiency while providing a solid foundation for career development and training of human resources (HR) professionals. A career development program (Career+) was also implemented to assess the proficiency levels of the HR staff and support the development of training plans. This effort resulted in the implementation of an 8-week comprehensive training course for the hiring staff. The IRS implemented the transition to USAStaffing as the new hiring platform to align with technology available and widely used across the federal government, which will increase efficiencies in the hiring process and further improve cycle times.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: TAS disagrees with this response. TAS would not have made a recommendation if we thought this issue had been corrected. Yes, hiring processes were restructured, but there is no tangible correlated success with the new processes as cycle times were still 150 ercent of HCO’s goal at the time of the report.

Further, as several subject matter experts from the various BODs indicated in our discussions, they do not believe that the “workstation” concept is more efficient. Rather, they indicated that it has been very frustrating for them and does not appear to be working as well as the prior system.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted – IRS stated they implemented this recommendation in full in April 2019. However, TAS disagrees per the information in the TAS Response above.

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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3.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #1-3

Renegotiate the hiring process with the NTEU to allow for up to 50 percent of all hiring announcements to be filled externally.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS is exploring opportunities to make the hiring process more agile through National Agreement negotiations and, while the agency will propose ways to streamline the process, those processes are subject to negotiation with NTEU. The IRS agrees to review opportunities to expand external hiring and has already identified hiring activities as a top priority for fiscal year 2021 negotiations. Negotiations, mediation, and fact-finding are set to end in August 2021. However, if either party requests assistance from the Federal Service Impasses Panel, the process may not end until August 2022.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: The IRS is exploring opportunities to make the hiring process more agile through National Agreement negotiations and, while the agency will propose ways to streamline the process, those processes are subject to negotiation with NTEU. The IRS agrees to review opportunities to expand external hiring and has already identified hiring activities as a top priority for fiscal year 2021 negotiations. Negotiations, mediation, and fact-finding are set to end in August 2021. However, if either party requests assistance from the Federal Service Impasses Panel, the process may not end until August 2022.

Update: The IRS was successful at negotiating to streamline the hiring process. Effective October 1, 2021, the IRS will be able to post vacancies for most entry level positions without following the procedures of the collective bargaining agreement. For above entry-level positions, the IRS was able to streamline the interviewing and hiring process, including limiting the amount of time employees have to respond to job offers and improving the rating and ranking process.

TAS RESPONSE: It is encouraging that the IRS agrees to implement this recommendation in part, and TAS stands ready to assist with these efforts where we can. We will continue to advocate for the IRS on these fronts, as the issues are important and need to be meaningfully and Quickly addressed.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Partially Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

4
4.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #1-4

Provide the IRS divisions with a single point of contact in the assigned HCO Employment Office for each of their hiring packages.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: This recommendation has been implemented. The Human Capital Office (HCO) assigned Business Account Managers to each business unit to serve as a single point of contact to provide personalized, dedicated, and comprehensive service throughout the hiring process.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: TAS understands that HCO believes the BAMs suffice for a single point of contact for BODs. However, several of our BOD contacts noted issues in their experience with the BAMs. The issues noted primarily involved the concern that the BAMs were often unable to nswer simple questions about a specific hiring package, and it could take days to get a response to a question. Not having a single point of contact who can quickly answer specific questions on hiring packages is problematic for the BODs, and it causes greater inefficiencies for HCO. Further, it has downstream effects on candidates applying for positions.

This needs to be addressed so that the process is more efficient for all parties involved.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted – IRS stated they implemented this recommendation in full in December 2019. However, TAS disagrees per the information in the TAS Response above.

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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5.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #1-5

Allow the divisions to work their own announcements and hiring packages, when requested, while providing oversight, quality review, and technical support to ensure they follow the proper processes.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The business units and the Human Capital Office (HCO) share responsibility for planning and execution of the IRS hiring process, and we believe the current model is effective and efficient. HCO is committed to partnering with the business units to continue to refine hiring activities. Monthly meetings are scheduled between the
business units and HCO’s Business Account Managers to address concerns and facilitate ongoing improvements.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: While TAS has noticed some improvements in its hiring processes, it is discouraging that HCO is not willing to accept assistance from the BODs in this area. With the potential for a ten percent increase to IRS funding in FY 2022, there will likely be a significant wave of IRS hiring on the horizon. TAS has concerns that HCO is not ready to deal with the influx of hiring activity. We don’t believe HCO should discount the BODs’ offer of assistance with hiring. Many of the staff in these organizations came from HCO and receive the same training as the HCO staff. The monthly meetings with the BAMs have been helpful in addressing some issues, but having the BAMs serve as a conduit to address questions related to hiring packages throughout the various workstation phases further slows the process. While HCO believes that the current model is effective and efficient, it is clear from reviewing the cycle times and visiting with subject matter experts from impacted BODs that there is significant room for improvement.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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6.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #1-6

Conduct a research study to learn from successful recruitment strategies used by other federal agencies and the private sector.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: We have already implemented this recommendation. The IRS engaged the Schatz Strategy Group to assess and analyze the IRS recruitment strategy compared to other federal agencies and the private sector. As a result, the IRS reestablished a Recruitment Team within the Strategic Talent Analytics & Recruitment Solutions (STARS) Office, implemented quarterly enterprise-wide forums to share best practices, and increased our presence on social media and virtual platforms. Results of these efforts were shown when we launched a new IRS Forward program for recent graduates, which resulted in over 26,900 applicants and 900 recent graduate hires in from June 2019 to January 2021 solely from this program. Of these, 291 were under the age of 30 and an additional 195 were between ages 30-39. Ninety percent of the recent graduate hires were hired from external announcements.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: It is hard to come to any conclusions regarding this data without additional context. We are happy that the IRS has realized some success with its new targeted program for recent graduates. While 26,900 applicants and 900 recent graduate hires over the course of a year and a half sounds great, without further context, we do not know what these numbers demonstrate.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

7
7.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #1-7

Invest more time, effort, and money and be more proactive in its recruitment efforts.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: Funding dependent, the IRS will increase recruitment staffing and spending to expand on the current recruitment portfolio which includes developing advertising collateral (videos, gifs., recruitment flyers, images, and communication), maintaining a social media presence, using nationally recognized virtual job boards, developing and maintaining relationships with schools, and participating at in-person and virtual career fairs.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: Funding dependent, the IRS will increase recruitment staffing and spending to expand on the current recruitment portfolio which includes developing advertising collateral (videos, gifs., recruitment flyers, images, and communication), maintaining a social media presence, using nationally recognized virtual job boards, developing and maintaining relationships with schools, and participating at in-person and virtual career fairs.

TAS RESPONSE: It is encouraging that the IRS agrees to implement this recommendation in full. We are optimistic that the funding received is sufficient to expand the IRS’s recruitment efforts significantly.

Update: IRS is holding recruitment events around the country. They have satisfied this recommendation.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open):  

8
8.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #1-8

Rather than hiring out to contractors, bring background check staff back to the IRS as fulltime employees.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS ceased conducting its own background investigations in 2019 because aging investigation cycle times were negatively impacting the ability of the Service to meet its hiring needs and increasing exposure to risk. We added a prescreen process instead to allow employees to onboard with certain checks shortly after selection and investigations were outsourced. The authority to conduct IRS background investigations is with the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA), which conducts approximately 97% of all federal background investigations across government. It would be cost-prohibitive to stand up an IRS background investigation team (which would require staffing, training, travel, technology, and contracts) and it would be counter-productive in driving increased agility, efficiency, effectiveness, and security as directed by the IRS Strategic Plan.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: TAS understands HCO’s response. However, subject matter experts from several BODs noted issues with background investigations. If there are things that HCO or the IRS can do to further improve the way these are worked for the IRS, it would be beneficial for all parties involved.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open):  N/A

9
9.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #1-9

Work with the Department of Treasury to seek approval for additional direct-hire authority for critical IRS positions beyond IRS IT, and consider seeking legislative changes to expand critical pay authority for IRS positions beyond IRS IT.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: (1) We will seek additional approval for direct-hire authority for critical positions. The IRS has prepared a request for direct-hire authority for filing season positions and routed it through the appropriate channels for approval and submission to the Office of Personnel Management.
(2) We will consider seeking legislative changes to expand critical pay authority for IRS positions beyond IRS IT. The Human Capital Office will partner with Legislative Affairs to discuss legislative changes that would allow the IRS to expand the Streamlined Critical Pay Authority beyond IT-related positions where a level of expertise and knowledge exceeds those that exist in the IRS and federal government.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: It is encouraging that the IRS agrees to implement this recommendation in full. We are encouraged that HCO will be able to get some traction in these areas, as it would be beneficial to the IRS as a whole.

Update: IRS has implemented direct-hire authority. They have satisfied this recommendation.

TAS RESPONSE: It is encouraging that the IRS agrees to implement this recommendation in full. We are encouraged that HCO will be able to get some traction in these areas, as it would be beneficial to the IRS as a whole.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open):

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