Workforce planning comes to the fore

The Forest Service and the National Security Agency don't have much in common, but both agencies are ahead of the pack when it comes to human resources planning, a federal personnel expert said Wednesday.

Frank P. Cipolla, director of the center for human resources management at the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) and former director of personnel management for the Defense Department, discussed the increasing importance of investing in employees and devoting resources to workforce planning at the Excellence in Government 2000 conference Wednesday.

Cipolla highlighted case studies from several agencies, but singled out the Forest Service and NSA for their HR efforts. The Forest Service, Cipolla said, has put increased emphasis on recruiting and diversity, and its leaders have invested in workforce planning. The NSA's "skills-mixed management" approach, which collects data to project what types of skills its future workforce will need, is the type of planning other agencies should be doing, Cipolla said.

Workforce planning is just getting off the ground at most agencies, Cipolla said. "If we ever knew how to recruit, we have forgotten how," he said.

Just as "reinventing government" was the Clinton administration's federal mantra, human capital planning may become the next administration's holy grail. Comptroller General David Walker has consistently tried to emphasize the importance of workforce planning in congressional testimony, speeches and reports. In June, President Clinton took up the cause, ordering that all agencies include human resources management goals in their annual performance plans.

Since changes in senior agency leadership affect workforce planning efforts, agencies need to begin thinking about such efforts before the upcoming presidential transition, Cipolla argued.

"We need to support the philosophy of investing in human resources," he said.

To do so, Cipolla said, agencies need to strengthen the link between workforce planning and strategic plans; consider expanding alternative employment arrangements; give managers maximum flexibility to manage work and assign staff; and place a greater emphasis on entry-level hiring, staff development and continuous learning.

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