Nonnakrit/Shutterstock.com

The CHCOs Game of ‘Survivor’ and How to Win

Five ways HR leaders can rise to the workforce challenge ahead.

If someone scripted the federal workforce’s version of reality TV based on the recent past, it would resemble Survivor, the show about teams working together to overcome obstacles flung their way.

The show would open with a workforce operating with outdated and ineffective workplace practices, and hiring laws that predate personal computers and the Internet. Throw in across-the-board budget cuts, widespread and unpaid employee furloughs, a three-year pay freeze and a 16-day government shutdown. Top it off with more experienced feds retiring and taking their institutional knowledge with them. Unfortunately, for the federal workforce it’s not a reality show but reality.

To gauge the full impact of these forces, the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton interviewed chief human capital officers and human resources leaders on challenges facing the federal workforce. It is chronicled in the report “Embracing Change: CHCOs rising to the challenge of an altered landscape,” the fifth in a series. Here are some of the findings:

Diminished, unpredictable and inflexible budgets hinder agency performance. Agencies have fewer resources to do the same or more work. “We have more missions now than we were responsible for 30 years ago, but we have fewer employees,” said one CHCO. Another was more direct: “When you just get a broad cut across the board, it hurts everything. And it is stupid. It is just plain stupid.”

Employee engagement is declining. Job satisfaction, as measured by the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings, dropped for the third year in a row—falling to 57.8 on a scale of 100, the lowest since 2003. One CHCO said, “People are bitter, they really are. They’re wondering: ‘How can they tell us our jobs don’t matter?’”

Hiring difficulties persist. When asked what grade they’d give agencies on hiring reform, 11 percent of CHCOs responded with A, 66 percent said B and 23 percent chose C. Reducing the time it takes to hire and simplifying the process were cited as areas in which progress has been made. Enhancing the quality and diversity of new employees, however, remains elusive.

Agencies are not using all the workforce data and analytics tools necessary to manage effectively. Too few CHCOs said they were helped by tools intended to assist them, such as the recently launched governmentwide HRstat—a CHCO-led, data-driven review focused on performance improvement in the human capital area—or the data-driven efforts stemming from cross-agency priority goals. They say it’s still too early to assess the impact these initiatives may have, but interviewees hoped they would help down the road.

The HR infrastructure and workforce need to be strengthened. CHCOs told us that neither the HR infrastructure nor HR workforce are where they need to be. And the quality of services and support for hiring managers is threatened by an outdated HR infrastructure, weak customer service data, skills gaps and inconsistent relationships among human resources staffs across government and between HR staffs and the managers they support.

The Obama administration’s new management agenda takes on some of the issues CHCOs raised in the report. In its fiscal 2015 budget, the administration commits to taking actions to:

  • Enable agencies to hire the best talent from all segments of society
  • Build a world-class federal management team starting with the Senior Executive Service
  • Create a culture of excellence and engagement

Here are some practical recommendations to accelerate progress in addressing federal workforce challenges and help CHCOs endure this new Survivor reality.

  1. Develop a strategy for workforce management in a diminished budget environment. The budget situation is not getting better any time soon, so CHCOs and HR professionals have to find ways to work together, share cost-effective practices and get the job done with less. It would help, of course, if Congress provided realistic budgets and mission expectations and then allowed agencies to manage to budget.

  1. Sustain efforts to reverse the decline in employee engagement. If the tide is to be turned, employee engagement must be championed by the entire leadership.

  1. Remake the federal hiring system. Agencies should maximize hiring flexibilities they have, but Congress and the president should enact reforms that simplify the complex hiring authorities.

  1. Continue to develop and make good use of workforce data and analytics tools. Big data is not just for use in managing programs. CHCOs, the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget should work together to harness data analytics to monitor and improve the workforce across government.

  1. Strengthen the HR workforce, systems and structures. Civil service reform should be a priority, though the HR workforce should not wait to step up its game and improve service to agency customers.  

There’s no tribal council at the end of this Survivor series, and there’s certainly no million-dollar prize for the winner. But with a little grit and determination, CHCOs who rise to the challenge will make a big difference in federal operations and Americans’ trust in government.

Robert Shea is a principal at Grant Thornton and chairman of the National Academy of Public Administration. He was formerly associate director for management at the Office of Management and Budget and counsel to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. Join the conversation on twitter at #CHCOreport. 

(Image via Nonnakrit/Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.