Robert Gibbs, Chief Human Capital Officer at NASA, discusses what the priorities are at one of the “best places to work” in the federal government, and the unique challenges that come with it.
Out of all the federal agencies, NASA is consistently listed as one of the top places to work. The agency ranks highly among happiness. Robert Gibbs, Chief Human Capital Officer at NASA, says that their workforce goals make them competitive with their own private industry counterparts, like SpaceX and Blue Origin. “I will tell you that being a partner with private industry and competing with private industry at the same time is a difficult position. But I’ll tell you that [what keeps us] on top of that best places to work list, it’s the people of NASA,” said Gibbs. “They’re absolutely astounding. They’re a lot of what’s right in what we do as a government, as a country. They care about what they do.” Gibbs says that the much of the issues with federal hiring flexibility date back to a time when the government was much smaller. “I call this the 50/50 problem, half of the problem is the way agencies behave and half of the problem is the structure of the GS system. The system started in 1949. In 1949, the minimum wage was 70 cents an hour. GS-15 was making $11,000 a year. Lots of things have changed since then.” Gibbs believes that keeping up with the new generation entering the workforce requires fundamental changes to the way that they seek talent. “I think the paradigm of work, the social contract, has changed. What our new workforce expects and how they expect to participate in these model changes. Gibbs said, “It’s very hard to recruit folks by saying we have a good retirement package, that’s just not sounding with the workforce that’s coming out of the great universities, the best and the brightest that we seek at NASA.”