COVID has made it harder to do almost everything in person.  And of the many things agencies need to do in person, hiring new employees and training them are among the most important.  This is especially true for customer-facing jobs. Even though new hires may be working from offices that aren’t currently open, those offices will be open eventually. It’s not going to be fun to learn six or more months after employees have been hired that they lack in-person professionalism or that their non-verbal communication patterns are dismissive.

Despite this, most agencies have continued hiring for open positions during the pandemic.  Some jobs that were already understaffed, such as information technology and cybersecurity roles, are more needed than they ever have been.  Other divisions which didn’t face acute staff shortages may become understaffed as older members of the workforce decide that this is as good a time as any to retire.

How do you hire new employees when in-person interaction is limited?  By using a trait that popular opinion would have you believe government agencies don’t have – flexibility.  The federal government has made a wide range of changes to the hiring process, including temporary Personal Identity Verification cards, more flexible I-9 forms, and virtual oaths of office. 

The Veterans Affairs Department faced among the most acute challenges, hiring 23,000 people between March and May to deal with the intense uptick in need due to COVID-19 cases in their facilities.  They did this during a time of tremendous change. There are currently four times as many remote workers in the VA than there were prior to the pandemic and the number of telehealth appointments being scheduled per week is up tenfold compared to the pre-pandemic statistics.

And while state and local governments are likely to shed many jobs in the coming months due to revenue shortfalls, they’re still hiring in some areas.  Unfortunately, one area with the most acute need has been state unemployment offices.  Some California unemployment officials say that employees are working in excess of 80 hours a week trying to bring the backlog of claims down, and while thousands of new employees have recently been hired, training them is taking time away from already-overworked experienced staff.   Some states are using virtual career fairs to provide more information to employees interested in filling empty roles.

One benefit to new public employees – the future opportunity to work from home.  While public agencies lagged far behind private companies in offering flexible work arrangements, many agencies have discovered that a partially remote schedule can actually increase productivity of certain tasks, while making employees happier.  It’s a small silver lining in what’s otherwise been a tough time for public agencies and the public at large.

To learn how CMTS:HR can help your agency handle HR investigations more efficiently, call us at 919-747-3812 or email us at