How Should President-Elect Trump Acquire and Manage Top Political Appointee Talent?

Image Credit: Michael Gaida/Pixabay

The BIG Question: Does the presidential transition team hire political appointees like going to a grocery store and picking up “commodity” oranges for making marmalade or does it act like a concerned cancer patient trying to identify the best doctor for a life-saving, critical, cancer surgery?


Hiring employees is not a commodity practice, yet, many organizations and their HR departments treat it like it is. In today’s world, quality employees equal organizational success. Quality employees can improve an ordinary idea into an extraordinary initiative, while ordinary employees can take an extraordinary idea and run it into the ground! The highest profile impact of quality talent acquisition is during US presidential transitions. Let us briefly review it at the start of this article to get a taste of the talent acquisition challenges in presidential transitions and then proceed to discuss best practices for talent acquisition and latest innovations in talent management.

US Presidential Transitions:

Talent acquisition and management can become a real challenge during US presidential transitions like what we are witnessing now from the outgoing Obama administration to the new incoming Trump administration. Not only do over 4,000 senior political appointee positions need to be filled by the new Trump team, but it needs to happen quickly, with lengthy personal and financial disclosures, many times with senate confirmation, background checks, and security clearances — all in the context of attaining the promises made during the campaigns. These new political appointee positions including the cabinet-level positions are inarguably critical for the success of the new administration, the party in power and most importantly for the country and it citizens. The planning for such transition needs to begin with the outgoing administration with a “clean” hand over to the new incoming presidential transition team. Here, the impact of ordinary staffing vs quality talent acquisition can be felt deeply as the success of the new administration depends on it. Of course, this kind of talent acquisition is an once in four years phenomenon anywhere in the USA and probably happens nowhere else in the world!

Staffing and Recruiting:

Staffing typically refers to temporary work like filling short term roles or to hire people for specific projects. Recruitment, on the other hand, normally refers to permanent or long term hiring. Both staffing and recruitment are an administrative and tactical process confined to hiring traditional skills sets and required competencies. These are normally reactive, near-sighted, and address the “butts in the seat” requirements of organizations. While they may address the near-term needs of the organization, the long-term impact on the organization can be detrimental to the internal culture, cost structure, profitability, and growth if not conducted strategically. This is where talent acquisition comes in.

Talent Acquisition:

Talent acquisition and management is a strategic approach to identifying, attracting, engaging, on boarding and managing the appropriate talent for the identified roles at the most opportune time whether they be temporary staffing or long-term recruitment. Talent acquisition management, is transformative in nature, directly linked to organizational outcomes and is built on the strategic integration of people, process, products and places. Talent acquisition management is all about maximizing value and output through “people.” If your organization is performing poorly or below average, inadequate talent management may be the root cause. If on the other hand, if it is performing well, you can improve the outcome further through a formal talent management program. Enough of studying. Now, here is a pop quiz!

Can you identify which of the below graphs represent staffing, recruitment and talent acquisition from 2004 to 2016?

US Trends: Staffing Vs. Recruitment Vs. Talent Acquisition:

The above graph is based on Google Trends global search data for the last 12 years for 2004 to 2016. Did you say?

  • Blue = Recruiting
  • Red = Staffing
  • Yellow = Talent Acquisitions

Then consider yourself a genius; you are talented! Point to note, very few companies are focused on talent acquisition.

Most HR departments treat human capital as “commodity” and subsequently their business leaders complain when the company does not perform.

Human Resource’s (HR’s) Role in Talent Acquisition Management:

HR talent acquisition process is a best of the breed, man-machine interface, and platform that is focused on delivering results for your organization. Typical talent acquisition programs work within the HR department bringing in transformative thinking, processes, and technologies to deliver business results for the organization. The talent acquisitions management process begins with talent augmentation to bring in a specific skill set or competency currently unavailable in-house, to supplement permanent staff during peak periods or to create a dedicated, winning team built around a specific technology, product or function as required by your business need or client. Talent augmentation program allows your organization to better manage for needs and changes in your environment whether they be project based, new growth or unexpected turnover of your employees or contractors. Talent augmentation can be:

  • Contract based talent augmentation.
  • Temporary-to-permanent talent augmentation.
  • Permanent talent augmentation.

Talent Acquisition Management Steps:

Typical talent management programs have the following attributes:

  1. Business Goals and Priorities: Top management must clearly identify the organization’s top goals and priorities for the mid to long term for talent management to be successful.
  2. SWOT Analysis: The next step in the talent management program is to identify the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats pertinent to the business goals and priorities.
  3. Address the Gap / Weaknesses: The talent management programs must then seek to bridge this gap between goals and SWOT by recruiting, staffing, and training of the new and existing workforce.
  4. Improve Processes and Tools: Part of the success of the talent management program is to identify, implement or improve the processes, tools, and technologies needed to attract, hire, train and retain talent.
  5. Measure Achievement / Continuous Improvement: No talent management program can be deemed successful until it has metrics for measurement towards goals and has a continuous improvement program.

Innovation in Talent Acquisition Management:

Since few organizations have static needs, the best way to address dynamic needs is by augmenting modern talent management techniques with innovative talent management tools. Used appropriately, such innovative tools augmentation can give organizations the flexibility, agility, capacity, capability, effectiveness and efficiency they need to grow in the dynamic marketplace of today!
  1. Enterprise Feedback Management: Is your organization self-aware? Does it know what it’s individual employees, customers and partners know? Does your organization still use outdated annual surveys to secure such feedback? Is your survey program more about sending out long and complicated surveys, storing feedback data and creating unnecessary reports, or is it about implementing accurate insights to tangibly improve your business outcomes? The enterprise feedback management platform enables organizations to collect business critical insight — and convert it into loyalty, growth, and profitability. Collect data from all touch-points — online, social and mobile surveys with modern feedback tools to support customer insight, HR, market research and much more within moments of an event for better response rates and heightened accuracy! Mix non-solicited data with the survey, panel and community insight for a complete view of performance and needs. Enable real-time reporting with action alerts and dashboards to let you see what’s not working and change it or see what is working, and organize to optimize it! With such a tool, enterprise ideation and crowdsourcing can be done in a jiffy, leading to quality results throughout the organization.
  2. Work Life Balance Optimization Through Digital Collaboration: Is your organization stressed out due to too many business travels, meetings, isolated clients or remote teleworking? If so, you need a secure, on-demand, easy to use, face-to-face, collaboration platform that enables just-in-time, HD video and audio, with military grade end to end security for one-on-one, one-to-many or many-to-many meetings, conferencing and broadcasting capabilities. Deploy such a cost effective platform incrementally across your employee, partner and client base to reduce travel costs up to 70% and finally allow staff from various business sites to participate in training, meetings, and team collaborations dynamically. Such platforms (if selected and implemented properly), are very cost effective and easy to operate, enhance the brand and image of your organization as tech savvy and to complete work faster, better and cheaper remotely. Enable better work-life balance with teamwork and company-wide collaboration quickly, while also increasing capacity, capability, and reach. Grow faster, reduce operational cost and increase profitability by agile, and optimized deployment of your existing workforce globally, all while providing the best incentives to attract and retain quality millennial generation talent.
  3. Predictive Talent Assessment: Is your interviewing process not yielding the required results? Does your company have a comprehensive solution for job competency modeling, potential/fit assessment, performance measurement, career planning, and predictive talent analytics? Today’s predictive talent assessment platforms apply the results of years of workplace research and statistical modeling and are better at the prediction of risky outcomes than the use of just interviews, background and reference checks:
  • Maximize workforce productivity and revenues by selecting the right people for the right jobs.
  • Minimize employee turnover and costs by screening out those individuals with poor job fit.
  • Enable fair and objective personnel decisions that are legally defensible.
  • Align employee performance to business values to get the work done the way the business wants it done.
  • Improve the long-term outcomes of the organization’s goals and plans.
  • Minimize future costs of maintaining organization’s talent management tools and system.
  • Reach an organization’s business goals and sustain progress more effectively.
  • Maximize job fit and culture fit for employees and organizations.
  • Improve leadership effectiveness for organizations.
  • Identify at-risk job applicants who are most likely to derail due to character flaws.

4. Just-In-Time Training and Compliancy: Productivity requirements for organizations are complex. On the job training never ends as processes and procedures are updated to improve performance dynamically. Demands placed on teams, administrators and employees mean they require broad-ranging, customizable “app” tools that improve just-in-time training, compliance, workflows, communications, and reporting especially in the field and for remote workers. It is important for organizations’ to maintain centralized quality control and standardization of information dissemination with detailed logging and fast reporting of all data disseminated and collected, including time, location, and image stamp. Most organizations need a tool which addresses all of these requirements in the office and in the field for performance improvement securely with or without an internet connection. The ability to rapidly and securely publish media-rich, interactive, mobile content on apps on multiple platforms, and tracking their usage, is an important need for your business and/or clients, then the new JIT platforms are a cost-effective solution for you.


Stop staffing and recruiting for your organization and focus on talent acquisition and management. If you need assistance reach out to us at: Talent Acquisition Management for a free consultation.


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About the Author:

Nitin Pradhan is the former award-winning CIO of the US Department of Transportation, a first term Obama Appointee; He is the current CEO of Launch Dream a business growth accelerator and Managing Partner of GOVonomy, an innovation as a service for governments and government contractors. He is also a Mentor at Mach 37, the nation’s top Cyber Accelerator and on the External Advisory Board of Accenture. Business and Government leaders can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.