Medina advocates better CHCO communication to stop budget axe

Friday - 8/10/2012, 5:25am EDT

Ruben Gomez, reporter, Federal News Radio

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Chief human capital officers should formalize how they communicate with Congress and agency leaders about the effects of budget cuts, the Chief Human Capital Officers Council leader said Thursday. In doing so, they can better protect initiatives critical to federal human resources.

"I think the CHCOs probably need to be more focused in their message of what HR value is," said Kathryn Medina, the council's executive director, in an interview with Federal News Radio. The message should be, she said, "These cuts that you're proposing, these constraints ... the sequestration, and the continuing resolutions, they have real, tangible effects."

Kathryn Medina, CHCO Council executive director

Medina said by defining exactly how spending reductions will affect core agency missions, CHCOs can help members of Congress make more informed decisions about budgets.

Human capital leaders worry about "not knowing the future, trying to make several different contingency plans and not knowing which direction you're going to be able to go in," she said. "Basically, everything revolves around the uncertainty."

That budget uncertainty represents one of the main challenges facing agency human capital leaders, according to survey results released Thursday by the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton.

Patricia Adams, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for civilian human resources, echoed Medina's concern.

"We don't have a good way of articulating the cost of people in our organizations and the impact of downsizing," she said during an event about the survey results. "And I'd like CHCOs and HR professionals to get better about being able to discuss that with leadership, and so that when we get budget challenges, we have a more effective way of making decisions about how to execute them."

Adams said human capital leaders should better familiarize themselves with the critical components of their agencies, in order to effectively communicate the effects of budget cuts.

"The government is so complex," she said.

Fed bashing

CHCOs also worry that so-called "fed-bashing" is negatively affecting budget decisions in Congress.

"Personally, I believe the federal government is the most effective organization in the world," said Agriculture Department CHCO William Milton, Jr. "And yet, our message isn't getting out there. And it's undeserving, it's demoralizing, what the federal worker sees everyday in the paper and what they hear from Congress."

Human capital leaders should spearhead efforts to change negative perceptions about public service, said Ray Limon, CHCO at the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs the AmeriCorps program.

"I think Americans maybe have lost sight what about civic responsibility can be and should be," he said. "We saw a little bit post 9-11. We saw a little bit in 2008 with hope and change.' But I think ... it's really up to us CHCOs to keep that spirit alive — that esprit de corps."

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