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A Word with HR: HUD’s Monica Matthews Offers Tips for Data-driven Personnel Management

For HUD Director of Strategic Planning and Management of Human Capital Monica Matthews, government has always been about people. At Salesforce’s Public Sector Transformation Summit, she shared recommendations for public sector leaders seeking to empower their workforce and drive positive constituent outcomes during times of uncertainty.

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For Monica Matthews, government has always been about people. As the director of strategic planning and management of human capital within the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she’s responsible for building and empowering the workforce of 7,300 employees in 10 regions nationwide. These employees, in turn, help provide rental assistance and support efforts to eradicate homelessness in the communities they serve. 

Empowering the workforce to serve their constituents effectively became even more important as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country and the world, hitting America's most vulnerable communities the hardest. 

“The pandemic raised extraordinary challenges for everyone, both personally and professionally,” Matthews said during her keynote address at Salesforce’s Public Sector Transformation Summit. “In the face of adversity and hardship, HUD staff in every region of the country continued to carry out the vital work of meeting the diverse needs and unique challenges of America's communities.” 

How did Matthews and her team pull it off? It wasn’t easy, especially at a time when resources were strained and hiring remained a critical challenge. Here are a few of her recommendations for how other agencies can drive successful citizen outcomes in the face of adversity. 

Communicate and Compromise 

Before joining HUD, Matthews spent her formative management years at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Commerce Department. While there, she served on a team leading the cultural shift to a shared services model. 

“[The Department of] Commerce was the first cabinet-level, multifunction shared services delivery department. With communication and great compromise, [our] project team consolidated agencywide functions, including HR, IT and acquisitions,” Matthews explained. “What's now ‘enterprise services’ leverages a service delivery consolidation that makes sense in a shared way, so that individual bureaus can focus on their unique missions.”

Communication and compromise were critical to Matthews’ success at NOAA and throughout her career. In 2017, as executive adviser for human capital and unified shared services management at the General Services Administration, Matthews helped create and develop a federal marketplace for migrating talent management solutions to commercially provided and managed software-as-a-service technology. 

Doing so, however, would require backing from multiple internal and external stakeholders, including chief human capital officers and governmentwide thought leaders.

“We exchanged information to improve cross-government communications, build partnerships and trust, and then move toward collectively leveraging federal resources to create a balanced marketplace for customer-centric HR systems and service delivery,” she said. 

Workforce Challenges Pave the Way for Opportunities 

In 2020, once commonplace HR practices, such as in-office interviews and onboarding, shifted to a virtual environment, forcing personnel managers like Matthews to get creative. 

Wasting no time, she released a pandemic action strategy and response for HUD’s Office of Inspector General. The strategy emphasized three key pillars to address workforce needs during this unprecedented time of crisis. 

1. Scenario and information planning

Matthews invited HCM teams to brainstorm issues and impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a prevent, observe and examine approach, personnel managers equipped program office clients with the tools needed to navigate uncharted waters.

2. Stakeholder management 

The strategy helped position HR across HUD to support a fully virtual environment. That required HCM leaders to design new policies and processes and overhaul existing ones while ensuring accountability. 

3. Client experience and shared service partnership

HUD engaged with customers and stakeholders to improve human capital and service delivery in the age of COVID-19. 

Even still, a number of recruiting, onboarding and hiring challenges arose. Prior to the pandemic, Matthews began hosting job fairs across the country to address skills gaps and aging-workforce concerns, while attempting to fill mission-critical occupations. After the pandemic, these events moved to an online setting. 

“With the challenges of hiring during COVID-19 also came new recruitment and onboarding gateways to talent I did not previously realize,” Matthews noted.

She and her team leveraged emerging technology solutions to accelerate those efforts.  

For example, to communicate hiring information early, often and across levels, HUD developed a human capital dashboard that helped stakeholders visualize different stages of the employee lifecycle. 

This investment in data and technology paid off. In fact, HUD personnel onboarding increased by 42% compared to fiscal year 2019. What’s more, the organization hired more people in a single year than it had hired in the previous decade, building a solid foundation for hiring practices moving forward. 

“The lesson [learned] throughout the pandemic — and now — is that we are all one team and we will get through this together,” Matthews said. 

Beyond hiring, HUD also tapped digital solutions to help organizational leaders better understand their workforce. 

“An agile analytics tool with drill-down capability now tells [a] dynamic, comprehensive story of our workforce. This tool goes beyond the essential statistics of personnel composition, including gender, race and national origin and retirement eligibility, to include things like occupational series, promotion, assertion, separation and exit survey data, as well as [a] comparison to HUD-wide information,” Matthews explained. 

That data, she continued, now “enables the transition from anecdote-centric to an enhanced data-driven approach that facilitates the analysis needed to attract, cultivate and retain a high-performing, diverse and engaged workforce.”

It’s that same data-informed approach Matthews says helped her get to where she is today. 

“I've spent the last 10 years of my career intently focused on human capital transformation, advancing HR service delivery, talent management solutions and the intersection of people, process and technology,” she said. “Technology solutions have played a critical role and drawn back the proverbial HR curtain in expanding access to opportunities for all.” 

Listen to Matthews’ full keynote address at Salesforce’s Public Sector Summit here. 

This content is made possible by our sponsor, Salesforce. The editorial staff was not involved in its preparation.

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