The FDA’s Challenges May Sound All Too Familiar

Nov 20, 2012
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

The recruiting challenges at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration look a bit like what you’ll find at many companies. That’s what I got out of a new report from a non-profit called the Partnership for Public Service, analyzing the FDA in detail, and full of interesting statistics about the agency’s workforce.

(You may remember, by the way, a somewhat similar recent report about the Defense Department in the U.S.)

Back to the FDA, here’s a quick look at some of the findings and suggestions:

  • The FDA needs to “develop targeted recruitment programs and talent pipelines … speed up the hiring process, recruit executives from outside the FDA to bring fresh perspectives to the organization, and ensure that subject matter experts, not just HR staff, are meaningfully involved in the assessment of job applicants.”
  • People don’t know all the interesting work being done at the FDA, and the careers they can have. Businesses, universities, and the National Institutes of Health often are seen as more attractive.
  • Too much work, and lack of advancement opportunities make retention tough.
  • Exit interviews should be mandatory, and more candid.
  • Relying a lot on temps can be really useful, but it can provide a certain lack of continuity.
  • The workforce planning process needs some TLC: waiting until someone leaves to start the hiring process doesn’t work.
  • “Most of the onboarding for new employees entails a high-level introduction to the agency. There are orientations held once per quarter, but they are not directed at specific jobs …  Onboarding at the FDA does not always engage new employees in a productive way. There is an extensive paperwork component for new employees designed to ensure that the scientific staff members are free of conflicts of interest, but there are not enough mentors to encourage employee engagement and help newly hired workers get a feel for the culture … there is a lack of simple technical support once new employees arrive to obtain such basic necessities as a computer and a telephone. While some offices indicate they have ‘buddy-system’ programs in place, not all do, and it can be taxing on often-overworked employees to be in charge of bringing their colleagues up to speed.”

More here.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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