Agencies making inroads with workforce, succession planning

Friday - 11/30/2012, 5:44am EST

Jason Miller, executive editor, Federal News Radio

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The Internal Revenue Service's human resources office will see a workforce reduction of about 20 percent by the end of 2013.

That one office is a microcosm of what many agencies are facing — staff reductions through retirements or buyouts.

Several agencies, however, are figuring out how to survive the decline in personnel.

The IRS' Chief Human Capital Office will have about 320 fewer workers by 2013. That's a significant cut to a workforce of about 1,600.

But David Krieg, the IRS chief human capital officer, said his office, like the rest of the bureau, is using a leadership planning tool to prepare for the future.

David Krieg, chief human capital officer, IRS

"We call it leadership success review, or LSR. It's comprised of four stages. It really is a very simple tool for employees and managers to use as well as for leaders to use," he said. "There are four various stages in this LSR process. It revolves around the employee taking a self-assessment. It's based on four competencies, and 12 or 13 behaviors to determine what your competency level is for each one of those competencies, behaviors or skills. After the employee does a self-assessment, the manager does an assessment of that employee."

Krieg, who was on a panel discussion at the Human Capital Management Federal conference in Arlington, Va. Thursday, said the assessments don't just stop with the employee's immediate supervisor, but it goes up to the top of the organization to determine how ready that employee is for management and what skills they need.

Career learning plans

Kreig said the employee and manager develop a career learning plan to prepare the employee for the next step in his or her career.

About 12,000 IRS employees have gone through the LSR assessment process. Krieg said he expects thousands more to use the tool in the coming years.

The IRS also is bringing employees together who naturally wouldn't meet or discuss skill gaps.

"We've created geographic leadership communities, which is an ability to get people to talk to each other and interact with each other," Krieg said. "It allows our leaders to help identify talent they may not be familiar with and try to accelerate some of that movement around what is needed for growth of the individual as well as to benefit the organization and our taxpaying public."

The IRS is one of several agencies facing the personnel crunch.

The Defense Department probably has one of the biggest workforce planning and succession planning challenges.

With 780,000 civilian workers, DoD is facing congressional and internal pressure to reduce employees, and the services are feeling the effects of retirements and buyouts.

DoD workforce strategy coming

Paige Hinkle-Bowles, DoD's chief human capital officer, said the military is part of several projects to address its workforce needs.

Paige Hinkle-Bowles, chief human capital officer, DoD

"It is our plan to do competencies assessments for all of our major occupations. We are doing that through a strategy that helps us look at occupation by occupation, broken into grade levels, what are the proficiencies that we have and what are the proficiencies that we need and we will determine now what are the strategies," she said, during her presentation at the conference. "If we have a proficiency level today that isn't what we are going to need in the future, then how are we going to get ourselves there? What do we need to recruit for? What do we need to make sure we are retaining? Where does our training and development come into play so that we bring the people we have up to speed in the right skills. All of that will occur occupation by occupation and functional community by functional community to ultimately get to what we would determine to be our ready workforce."

Hinkle-Bowles said those competencies will cover about 90 percent of DoD's occupations. So far, the Pentagon has completed competencies for about 23 of 33 mission critical occupations, and 65 percent overall.

DoD also will issue a new workforce strategy by 2015 and launch a new online automated tool to collect data on the workforce competencies in 2013.

Hinkle-Bowles said the Army developed the data tool and her office is expanding it across the DoD.

The HR occupation went through the competency assessment last year. Hinkle-Bowles said assessments for other occupancies will be similar.

"We ended up with 27 HR unique competencies, broken out against three different levels," she said. "I think we called them specialist, advisor and strategic. Basically, competencies you would need at each of the levels to be proficient and at what level we would need them."

Hinkle-Bowles added DoD is using the competencies in hiring announcements on USAJobs.gov.

"We still have a ways to go. It is informing us on training and development we need, and what we need to do in the future," she said. "And it's helping us inform those strategies so it's serving the purpose it's supposed to serve."

Hinkle-Bowles said the development of the strategic workforce plan is challenging because of DoD's size. The military is taking an approach using multi-layered governance boards to lead a function-by-function and component-by-component review, analysis and agreement on the plan and competencies.

Change management at Interior

The Interior Department completed a workforce assessment and now is implementing its strategic plan.

Pam Malan, Interior's deputy assistant secretary for human capital and diversity, said the biggest challenge has been the change management.

She said many managers believe workforce planning is only an HR function. But Malam said she has to remind the supervisors that workforce planning is a management activity which HR plays a role in.

Pam Malam, deputy assistant secretary, human capital and diversity, Department of the Interior

"Our managers are beginning to see that this is a viable way of giving them a structured way to think about this," Malam said. "The process we used to get this started was the benchmarking and we created it. We then tested it in a number of small scale ways, within the office of the secretary. I said if we can't do it at the highest level of the organization and respond firsthand to the challenges and lessons learned, how can I ask our bureaus to do it?"

She said then each bureau did a small scale pilot to learn how to use the competency approach.

"As we then evaluated how it worked for them, what do we need to change and how could we make this better? It's been the unsolicited feedback from managers about how much it's helped them think about getting their work done in a different way," Malam said.

She said managers now understand they can take a position that is low risk in terms of the impact on the office or mission if someone left, and how they could re-purpose that into another area of their mission that has a higher risk of losing the talent.

Malam said the assessments and strategy gives managers a longer range perspective in terms of planning.

In fact, Interior will launch a new online tool as well that will enable the supervisors to foresee capability gaps and where there are high risk and low risk positions.

Malam said getting managers to understand the importance of workforce planning and succession planning is key to keeping the agency successful in meeting its mission.

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