Congress urged to give agencies more personnel flexibilities

Agencies can do a better job attracting and retaining a high quality workforce if their personnel offices are granted more flexibility, according to a new General Accounting Office report.

"Federal agencies are experiencing pervasive human capital challenges in acquiring and developing staffs to meet current and emerging agency needs," the report (GAO-03-2) said. "These types of challenges are likely to go unresolved if agencies do not take steps to ensure that they have sufficient numbers of people in place with the right skills, tools and incentives to get the job done right."

Based on interviews with human resources officers at 24 major agencies and with representatives of federal employee unions, GAO determined that some agencies are already using effective programs to improve employees' work lives. Such programs include alternative work schedules, child care assistance, transit subsidies, recruitment bonuses and retention allowances.

Benefits like child care assistance help boost employee morale and can increase productivity because more reliable child care usually translates to fewer absences from work, the report said. GAO concluded that flexible work schedules increase productivity as well, because employees can manage their own time to make sure they complete all of their responsibilities.

Agencies have also benefited from alternative hiring practices, including programs to hire students for temporary jobs, the report said. These programs work well because they help determine if the student would be the right person to fill a permanent position later. The federal outstanding scholar program allows agencies to speed up the normal hiring process to lure exceptionally skilled college graduates quickly, GAO also noted.

The report recommended that Congress grant agencies additional flexibilities to restructure their workforces, revamp pay systems, streamline their hiring processes, deal with poor-performing employees and create more temporary positions.

Union officials agreed that more flexible human resources strategies would be beneficial at times, but said that managers might misuse them.

"Because human capital flexibilities entail greater decentralization and delegation of human capital authorities and fewer rules, the protection of employees' rights under these conditions can be challenging," the report said.

But most union officials and agency representatives GAO interviewed between May 2001 and May 2002 agreed that if managers implement the new flexibilities properly, they will not violate employee rights.

Agencies need to make sure that human resources flexibilities are clearly linked to strategic plans, the report said. Agencies should also make sure that employees have a say in designing more flexible policies. For example, the U.S. Mint allowed employees at a San Francisco plant to vote on options for implementing an alternative work schedule.

In addition, agencies should devote attention to streamlining the administrative process for using flexibilities, the report recommended. The General Services Administration did this by allowing supervisors to apply to give employees on-the-spot cash awards over the agency's intranet instead of filling out lengthy forms justifying the awards and sending the forms to the agency's personnel office for review.

Agency officials agreed with the report. The Office of Personnel Management commented that Congress should authorize greater flexibilities at agencies across the board, or some agencies would have an "unfair competitive advantage" for hiring and retaining the best workers.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.