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Strategic Workforce Planning for Government’s Reorg

Wednesday, July 18, 2018
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On March 13, 2017, the President issued an executive order requiring a comprehensive reorganization of executive branch agencies. In April 2017, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provided guidance to federal agencies for developing their reform and workforce reduction proposals. Past proposals to reform and reorganize government have not always come to fruition and can take years to implement fully.

Given the potential benefits and challenges of government reform, Congress and the executive branch need the tools and information to help evaluate agencies’ reform proposals. Government Reorganization: Key Questions to Assess Agency Reform Efforts, a new report from the Government Accountability Office, identifies the key questions that Congress, OMB, and agencies can use to assess the development and implementation of agency reforms.

One category of questions focuses on strategically managing the federal workforce, because as the report notes: “At the heart of any serious change management initiative are the people—because people define the organization’s culture, drive its performance, and embody its knowledge base Experience shows that failure to adequately address—or often even consider—a wide variety of people and cultural issues can lead to unsuccessful change.”

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Specifically, the report poses two critical questions in this arena:

  1. · How does the agency plan to sustain and strengthen employee engagement during and after the proposed reforms?
  2. · To what extent has the agency conducted strategic workforce planning to determine whether it will have the needed resources and capacity, including the skills and competencies, in place for the proposed reforms or reorganization?

The report explains that “strategic workforce planning should precede any staff realignments or downsizing, so that changed staff levels do not inadvertently produce skills gaps or other adverse effects that could result in increased use of overtime and contracting.” Some questions that talent development leaders should help their agencies address before making any key changes include:

  • How has the agency assessed the effects of the proposed agency reforms on the current and future workforce and what does that assessment show?
  • How has the agency ensured that actions planned to maintain productivity and service levels do not cost more than the savings generated by reducing the workforce?
  • What succession planning has the agency developed and implemented for leadership and other key positions in areas critical to reforms and mission accomplishment?
  • To what extent have the reforms included important practices for effective recruitment and hiring such as customized strategies to recruit highly specialized and hard-to-fill positions?
  • What employment- and mission-related data has the agency identified to monitor progress of reform efforts and to ensure no adverse impact on agency mission, and how is it using that data?

For more insight, check out the full report on the GAO website.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at rellis@td.org. 

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