Chief of the Year: Human Capital

Reginald Wells, chief human capital officer, Social Security Administration.

Government Executive

On June 15, Government Executive is featuring the government's chief officers of finance, human capital, information and information security in a special issue of the magazine. This year, for the second time, we've identified individuals to highlight as Chiefs of the Year. In challenging times, these individuals are leading the way in coming up with innovative solutions, providing a shining example to their peers.

Reginald Wells
Chief Human Capital Officer
Social Security Administration

Reginald Wells, chief human capital officer at the Social Security Administration, faces tough challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining quality employees.

As government agencies push forward with the Obama administration's hiring reform initiative, SSA is losing more employees than it can bring on board thanks to steep budget cuts. At a time when its workload continues to increase, SSA is paying attention to careful and focused hiring to build a top-notch workforce with the resources available.

As part of its recruitment strategy, Wells notes that the agency began with the reform parameters set by the Office of Personnel Management, reduced its average time-to-hire from 65 days to 54 and rolled out a video-on-demand training series for hiring managers to view on their schedule. The agency also has set priorities for recruiting veterans and building a diverse applicant pool.

"It's tough when you don't have many vacancies to fill, but what vacancies you do have it is important to fill them," says Wells. "Even though you may not have that many, you do robust recruitment and bring qualified people on board."

SSA is in a unique position as a service-based agency, says Wells. The agency has made hiring and supporting people with disabilities a priority, for example, because a large part of its workload is processing disability benefit claims.

"It has been a business imperative for many years and we are focused on making sure that we are recruiting very broadly and bringing on board a workforce that can relate to the American public very effectively," he says. "It's a full-time responsibility."

According to Wells, the agency's compelling mission also boosts employee retention, a particular concern when hiring is limited and the threat of retirement is high. SSA seeks to recruit individuals who are interested in the service the agency provides and offers career development opportunities that keep them engaged in spite of limited compensation and resources, he says.

"I think everyone can see the line of sight between what their job is and how we serve the public," he says. "The other thing is how well we're supporting them while they're here. Employees, generally speaking, may be disappointed they don't get all the resources they need, but they do feel supported by the immediate leadership and executive leadership of the agency."

Chiefs of the Year 2011 main page

Hear from Reginald Wells and the other Chiefs of the Year at's June 15 briefing in Washington, D.C. Click here to register.