I attended a Performance Coalition forum yesterday that was a dialogue on human capital issues facing the next President. Panelists extolled the importance of attracting and retaining talent needed to deliver on government’s promises to citizens. But it served as an opportunity to reflect on what seems to be going on.
The most visible human capital issue in the current presidential campaign is the debate over the appropriate mix of public sector vs. private sector employees in delivering public services. For example, Senator Hillary Clinton says she would reduce the number of private sector contractors; Rudy Giuliani says he would reduce the number of federal employees by not replacing all those that retire.
However, there is another layer of human capital issues that may not be front-burner for the campaigns but will likely be items that a new president – whoever wins – will have to address when he or she takes office because Congress is beginning to take the initiative in defining that agenda. In addition, the Bush Administration has ongoing initiatives that will likely continue in any future administration.
Congress is currently actively considering about a half dozen issues that, if enacted in the coming year, would largely be left to the new president to implement. These include:
- Expanding diversity in the career Senior Executive corps (H.R. 3774, S. 2148)
- Expanding the use of tele-work (S.1000)
- Legislatively establishing labor-management councils (H.R. 3892, S. 2197)
- Requiring agencies to “in-source” work that is currently being done by contractors (in Defense Authorization Bill)
- Create a Public Service Academy (H.R. 1671, S. 960)
- Restricting the implementation of Homeland Security and Defense pay-for-performance systems
- Requiring all employees to include a new element in their performance appraisals to reflect their agencies’ customer service standards (H.R. 404)
In addition, the Bush Administration has put in place several initiatives that are likely to continue, largely around creating a results-oriented performance culture in the government. In some cases they started under his predecessor and in other cases are statutory requirements enacted in recent years:
- Creation of the position of Chief Human Capital Officer in each department.
- A pay-for-performance system for career Senior Executives.
- An agency-by-agency annual employee survey.
- Workforce plans in each of the major agencies that detail existing and needed employee capabilities and competencies.
- Common shared services and a common framework for back office human resource functions, such as payroll.
- OMB pilots on managing individual performance and creating high-performing organizations
- Creating a common assessment framework, the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework, so agencies can assess their efforts against an agreed-upon standard.
So when the next president takes office, there will be an on-going agenda of issues. The challenge will be setting priorities among them, and adding his or her own issues to the mix.