Transition Ideas: Human Capital

by
Partnership for Public Service

Partnership for Public Service

Today’s the beginning of the new fiscal year!  While there may not be a budget and the economy seems to be crashing down, there are only four weeks left in the presidential campaign.  It is time for the various think tanks to begin releasing their ideas for the next president to act upon!  Today, the Partnership for Public Service releases the centerpiece of its Presidential Transition Initiative – “Roadmap to Reform:  A Management Framework for the Next Administration.”

Befitting its name “partnership,” seven other good government groups joined the Partnership in endorsing its roadmap to “improve government operations. . . . by focusing on its greatest asset – its people.”  Its report starts by highlighting the projected loss of 530,000 employees over the next five years as they retire, and the importance of recruiting, training, and motivating the next generation of public servants.

The Roadmap organizes its recommendations around four components:

The Right Talent.  The Partnership says “Just filling vacancies is inadequate.”  Agencies have to identify future needs and recruit talent for those needs, not today’s vacancies.  This involves creating a planning, recruiting, and hiring process that reflect practices young potential employees expect: user-friendly and transparent.  No essays, more resumes.  No General Schedule, but agency-specific tailored systems.  Patent examiners, bank examiners, disability examiners, border guards, doctors, and air traffic controllers should not be all shoe-horned into the same pay system.

An Engaged Workforce.  “Managers should be held accountable . . . for high levels of employee engagement,” says the Partnership.  To do this, “Managers should build a clear line of sight from an employee’s work to accomplishments of broader objectives and the agency’s mission.”  In addition, agencies should invest in training and Congress should “statutorily allocate money for training that can’t be eliminated or re-budgeted,” and agencies should be allowed to roll over unspent funds from one year to the next to finance training opportunities.

Strong Leadership.  The Partnership says “The federal government has an inconsistent track record selecting, developing, and retaining top political and career leaders with strong management skills.”  For political appointees, it recommends that during Senate confirmation hearings, senators assess whether appointees are qualified to run large and complex organizations, and once appointed, they receive an orientation on how the government works. For longer-term leadership, the Partnership recommends the designation of chief management officers in agencies and the use of “joint duty” talent exchanges within and between agencies and other organizations.

Public Support.  Public support can focus lawmaker support for a vital civil service.  Attitudes toward federal employment is part of promoting a constructive solution.  To date, both presidential candidates have extolled the importance of public service.  This in turn can begin to affect both attitudes and public support.

The Partnership also promotes other actions in its Roadmap:

** Making metrics more useful by focusing on outcomes, for example by promoting the use of “PerformanceStat” models to create a culture of performance.

** Publishing program performance results to clearly account for resources used, such as by building on pre-existing initiatives such as balanced scorecards or the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART).

** Requiring essential data be uniformly collected, analyzed and made available to agencies and stakeholders.

** Dramatically reducing the number of Senate-confirmed positions (1,137) to ensure essential leadership positions are filled in a more timely fashion.

Shortly, other groups will be releasing their reports.  I’ll try to provide summaries of them as they become available.  If I miss anything, let me know!  In the meanwhile, congrats to Max Stier and team at the Partnership.

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