OMB to agencies: Don’t waste employees’ talents

Agencies must use their employees' skills wisely to accomplish critical missions and earn high scores in human capital management from the Bush administration, according to an official from the Office of Management and Budget.

"It's not just knowing the human resource tools and knowing how to deploy them, you need to know how to deploy them strategically," said Lisa Fairhall, OMB's personnel policy chief.

Fairhall spoke at the National Academy of Public Administration's annual performance conference. The conference, which ends Thursday, has focused on performance-based public service.

The Bush administration's Executive Branch Management Scorecard uses a system of red, yellow and green lights to rate agencies in five areas: human capital management, competitive sourcing, financial management, electronic government and linking performance to budgets. No agency got a green light in the human capital management category when the administration released its first scorecard in February.

"Agencies and agency initiatives will not succeed without the proper human resource strategies," Fairhall said.

Without such strategies, agencies may not be able to identify what their critical missions are, according to Fairhall. "What we found when reviewing workforce analysis plans is that some agencies could identify their critical missions and some couldn't," she said.

To make the leap from red or yellow to green, Fairhall said agencies should first sit down with OMB and the Office of Personnel Management.

"You need to understand what OMB and OPM see as your problems," Fairhall said. "Progress is measured against that [assessment]." Agency officials should then conduct an intensive workforce analysis to identify mission-critical occupations and assess skill gaps.

Fairhall also said agencies must continue their efforts to reduce layers of management by eliminating duplicative efforts and jobs. Agencies should also tie human capital strategies to performance goals and be able to clearly explain how long and how much money it will take to put those plans in place, she said.

"I don't think it's expected that all of the agencies will get to green in two years or even three years or four years," Fairhall said. "Focus on what's important in agreement with what OMB thinks is most important, and do them."

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