GAO: Agencies’ performance plans light on workforce planning

Federal agencies' fiscal 2001 performance plans were light on details when addressing workforce planning, according to a new report from the General Accounting Office. Comptroller General David Walker has made workforce planning his mantra for the government, where nearly 900,000 employees will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. In January, GAO added human capital issues to its high-risk list, thereby designating it as one of the federal government's biggest management challenges. Under the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, agencies must prepare annual performance plans, which set out goals federal managers will have to meet in the next fiscal year. Last June, President Clinton ordered all agencies to include human resources management goals in their annual performance plans. In its report, "Managing for Results: Human Capital Management Discussions in Fiscal Year 2001 Performance Plans" (GAO-01-236), GAO analyzed how well agencies addressed human capital management in their 2001 performance plans. While each agency discussed human capital in their plans, they showed different levels of attention to the issue. Few of the plans addressed succession planning, aligning performance expectations with agency mission and goals, using competitive salaries to attract and retain employees or performance management systems, GAO found. "Some agencies identified the unique human capital challenges they confront within their broad operating environment, but they did not include specific strategies or goals for resolving those challenges," GAO said. The federal government would see great improvements in human capital management if agencies comprehensively reviewed the size and skills of their workforces and adopted a more strategic, performance-based approach to workforce management, the report found. According to GAO, agencies should use their 2001 performance plans as a starting point for addressing human capital issues, "moving away from…simply describing human capital challenges to detailing the what, why, how and when of the strategies to address those challenges." In response to the report, the Office of Personnel Management suggested that agencies use its guide, A Handbook for Measuring Employee Performance: Aligning Employee Performance Plans with Organizational Goals, as a tool for addressing human capital issues.
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