The survey typically took 15-20 minutes to complete. Response
rates varied by agency; several agencies had over 50%
participation and one agency achieved over 60% participation.
Across USDA, over 1,600 IT employees completed the survey,
approximately 34% of the target population. USDA’s 34%
response rate was noticeably higher than the 26% average
response rate across the federal IT workforce and is considered
a relatively strong response rate for a voluntary survey.
The survey included demographic questions relating to age,
grade, years of government service, years of IT industry
experience, planned retirement, and other factors. Based on the
responses, a profile of the “Typical USDA IT Worker” emerged (see Figure 1). Assessing Today’s IT Workforce USDA recently participated in the first ever, federal-wide
information technology (IT) workforce skills assessment. The
skills assessment was sponsored by the Federal Chief
Information Officers (CIO) Council, the Office of Management
and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Personnel Management
(OPM). The web-based assessment survey was designed to
collect information from federal IT employees regarding:
Figure 1. ; Demographic information such as age and occupational series, Based on survey responses across the entire federal IT ; Current proficiency in a variety of competencies and skills, workforce, the “Average Federal IT Worker” has a similar profile ; Certifications held, and to USDA’s average IT worker, but is slightly more senior, is ; Time spent on a series of “specialized job activities.” more likely to have an advanced degree, has fewer years of Federal service and more years of private sector experience, Drivers for IT Workforce Planning and is more likely to consider leaving the organization in the The survey satisfied the E-Government Act (Section 209) of short term. 2002 requirement to analyze the personnel needs of the federal government relating to IT and information resources Top Level Assessment management, as well as the annual requirement of the Clinger-The survey asked respondents to self-assess their current Cohen Act (CCA) to assess the competencies* and skills** of proficiency in a set of 16 general and 53 technical the federal IT workforce. Survey results will also serve as competencies, using a six-point scale (0-5). The competencies critical input in the development of a USDA IT Workforce included in the survey are a subset of the competencies that Strategy in support of the Departmental Human Capital Plan. make up the GS-2210 occupational series, and can be mapped back to other job functions and series. The top 10 technical and Defining the IT Workforce top 10 general competencies of the USDA’s IT surveyed-The survey was completely anonymous and voluntary, and population (based on average proficiency) are shown in figures targeted employees in IT and IT-related positions. Although 2 and 3. they are an integral part of the IT workforce, contractor personnel were not surveyed. Occupational series used to
identify the appropriate survey audience included the following traditional IT series: GS-0334 Computer Specialist GS-0391 Telecommunications GS-0854 Computer Engineering GS-1550 Computer Science GS-2210 Information Technology Management Other (including GS-0332, GS-0335, etc.) Select individuals from “non-traditional” IT series such as GS- 0301 (Misc. Administration and Program) and GS-0343 (Management & Program Analysis) were also included in the survey audience. Figure 2.
*Competency: OPM defines competency as a measurable pattern of knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics that an individual needs to perform work roles or occupational functions successfully. **Skill: A skill is a part of a competency that helps one apply that competency to accomplish specific tasks. Whereas a competency is high level and could be applied to many areas, a skill is usually quite specific.
and amount of time spent on specialized job activities. When
survey data are paired with other indicators such as the Federal
Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and the Capital
Asset Plan and Business Case (Exhibit 300s), a more
comprehensive view of the actual “bench strength” of USDA’s IT
workforce is provided. By linking proficiency in related
competencies and skills to the amount of time spent on each
activity, one can infer whether the workforce has adequate skills
and competencies given its workload, or if there are critical gaps.
USDA’s IT workforce is tenured and experienced; around 11%
plan to retire within 3 years, including a large number of GS-15
and SES employees. That percentage is even higher within
certain agencies, including the Rural Housing Service, Office of Figure 3. the Chief Information Officer, and National Agricultural Statistics
Service. Planned retirement trends will be a critical input to The survey also included 80 IT-related skills and 46
workforce planning. certification areas. Figure 4 shows the top 10 certification areas
and indicates the number of survey respondents certified in each
area; the percentage of overall survey respondents certified, USDA’s IT workforce has a relatively high level of proficiency in
based on 1,638 total respondents; and the ranking of the number several of the most important technical competencies, but needs
of employees who hold the certification. competency development in several other important IT areas.
For example, survey results indicate potential skill gaps related to IT security, enterprise architecture, and knowledge
management (e.g. Portal Development, Groupware) in many
agencies. By comparison, proficiency in general competencies
is uniformly stronger.
There are higher competency and skill proficiency in key areas
within certain USDA agencies. Awareness of where strength,
capabilities, and areas of expertise exist and do not exist will be
crucial inputs to Department-wide workforce planning efforts.
For example, the majority of employees holding certifications in
critical areas such as project management, IT security, and
solutions/enterprise architecture work within the Farm Service
Agency, Food and Nutrition Service, Natural Resources Figure 4. Conservation Service, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). OCIO will work Additionally, the survey asked respondents to estimate the with the USDA agencies to determine if additional policies and amount of time they spend (extensive, moderate, or strategies are needed in the area of IT certification. minimal/none) on 10 different “specialized job activities.” Figure 5 shows the number of respondents (out of 1,638) who spend an Next Steps extensive amount of time on each activity. Workforce planning and management are key elements of USDA’s Human Capital Plan. USDA’s OCIO and Office of
Human Resources Management (OHRM) are now using the
survey results in conjunction with other data to help develop a
USDA IT Workforce Strategy in support of the USDA Human
Capital Plan. Agency-specific data are available for participating
organizations to conduct additional analyses.
The Federal CIO Council and OPM will sponsor their next annual
survey in the summer, 2004. Each agency’s assessment of
their current workforce will help identify skills imbalances, as well
as areas where strategic competencies may lack the depth
necessary to attain agency priorities. USDA looks forward to
participating in this survey and increasing the response rate of
our IT employees. OCIO will contact your agency in the coming
weeks to help the Department move forward in this process.
The Analysis Phase
As noted, the survey collected the respondents’ estimates and/or
self-assessment of their proficiency in general and technical
competencies, proficiency in IT-related skills, certifications held,