Webinar Recap: How to Build Your Digital Dream Team

Digital.gov’s Web Managers Community of Practice held an event in May 2022 with a panel of federal web managers on how to get the right skills, talent, and support in place to build a digital dream team.

Speakers included Laura Larrimore from the the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Tori Garten from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Health (NIAID), and Vicki McFadden from the General Services Administration (GSA). The event was moderated by Ruxi Giura, co-lead of the Web Managers community.

Panelists shared their experiences recruiting and hiring a top-notch digital team, and described solutions for how to do this work in the federal government.

  • Identifying the key roles on a digital dream team and how to prioritize hiring;
  • Having crucial conversations with your leadership on budgeting and hiring, including how to align job duties and classifications;
  • Making the case to educate decision makers;
  • Developing strategic staffing plans; and
  • Creating a “future proof” roadmap for your digital team.

Positioning your team

The panelists also shared information about their organizations, their teams’ positions in the agency, and critical partners they worked with to overcome recruiting and hiring challenges.

The NIAID team started as a team of one or two, but it has progressed from a team to an office, the Digital Information and Policy Office, to a branch — and is now known as the New Media and Web Policy Branch.

Helping people understand what goes into crafting a good website can help you justify funding for the contractors or federal employees needed to have a solid digital presence.—Tori Garten, NIAID

This office is located within the Office of Communications and Government Relations, and critical partners include staff in the information technology office, senior leadership, and over 100 content contributors

Laura was the first digital communication hire at USPTO, eight years ago. Over time, positions have been added to the team including a social media specialist, photographer, website editor in chief, junior social media specialist, manager, and several writers and editors, including two who are bilingual.

Laura also emphasized the importance of working closely with the Office of the CIO on technical issues, emphasizing that the CIO is one of their most critical partners.

GSA’s Service Delivery team is brand-new, reporting to the Deputy Administrator. It was created to pair with GSA programs that deliver digital services to end users. The team is made up of three software developers, one acquisition strategist, a content designer, a user experience designer, and two product managers. They work closely with the staff offices and have critical partnerships with the Office of Customer Experience, Office of Strategic Communications, and GSA IT.

Tips for the hiring process

Panelists provided four key tips when starting a hiring process:

  1. Promote telework and job flexibility. By not limiting the hiring pool to specific geographical regions, you can attract the most talented candidates from around the country to apply and join. Remote positions and a remote-first culture open up federal employment to a more diverse group of people who do not live in Washington, DC, and the surrounding metro areas.

  2. Use tools that foster collaboration. Use collaboration tools that allow teams to co-work and form bonds regardless of their location. By using and promoting these tools, agencies can better support new hires by making sure employees have what they need to do their jobs effectively.

  3. Use plain language for job postings. Include examples of job tasks so that people can really get a sense of what they’ll be expected to do day-to-day. If done right, candidates will be able to see themselves in the role, and go into the job with realistic expectations. Leverage plain language in performance profiles to give candidates an understanding of the job requirements and duties up front.

  4. Host information sessions. Hold periodic information sessions to offer potential candidates an opportunity to learn more about working at your agency, available positions, and the application process. For examples, see the Join TTS website where they list their upcoming hiring information sessions; some are general hiring info sessions, while others are specific to open roles.

Activity

Join the web managers community today! The community is a safe, collaborative space for federal employees to:

  • Recruit for positions on federal digital teams;
  • Learn about job openings at other agencies; and
  • Share our successes and challenges to get the right skills, talent, and support in place to build a digital team.

Sample job descriptions

A position description, or PD, is defined by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as “a statement of the major duties, responsibilities, and supervisory relationships of a position. In its simplest form, a PD indicates the work to be performed by the position. The purpose of a PD is to document the major duties and responsibilities of a position, not to spell out in detail every possible activity during the work day.” It will include an official series, title, and grade based on the results of a classification determination.

Throughout the event, attendees asked panelists to share sample job descriptions. Below are some recent past openings at GSA that promote telework and job flexibility and are written in plain language.

GSA’s Technology Transformation Services lists positions they’ve hired for in the past. You can use this page as a resource for people and teams across government to use when writing position descriptions in your agencies.

Also, GSA’s Service Delivery team held an information session (PDF, 2.1 MB, 27 pages) and hired three GS-15 career federal roles in 2022:

Browse the sample position descriptions for digital government jobs for even more sample descriptions that you can use and customize to hire your own digital gov team.

Do you have a good sample position description to add to this list? Send it to us at digitalgov@gsa.gov.

In closing, building a digital dream team requires some similar skills to building an excellent website:

  • Communicate with key stakeholders (to make the case for funding and positions);
  • Make data-informed decisions (to show the value of hiring skilled employees or contractors and to tell the story of ”if we hire X, we can accomplish Y”);
  • Plan the project (to map out how you will grow from one to two, to five, and more);
  • Write in plain language (to improve job descriptions); and
  • Use feedback to drive continuous improvement (to listen to your audience and learn from what you hear, such as hosting information sessions with potential candidates).

We look forward to continuing the discussion on the community listserv!