Workforce Planning Is Key to a High-Performing Future Agency

workforce-planningThe Federal Government’s most valued resource is its people. At a time when the Government faces what the GAO describes as a “period of profound transition,” management of human resources within the Government has become a key driver of not only achieving mission today but also of positioning agencies to be ready to achieve missions in the future.

Despite advances in human capital management in the Federal Government, strategic human capital management has been designated by the GAO as government-wide high-risk area since 2001. Last year the GAO added “Human resources specialist” to its list of “Mission Critical Occupations.”  Despite this, however, human capital management often begins after the organization-wide strategic planning takes place, which prevents using human capital information to inform the overall strategic plan. Moreover, it inhibits the organization’s most powerful tool in optimizing the workforce — and in optimizing the organization: workforce planning.

Why is workforce planning HR’s most powerful tool? The GAO has identified two benefits of effective workforce planning:

  1. Aligning an organization’s human capital program with its current and emerging mission and programmatic goals; and
  2. Developing long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff to achieve programmatic goals.

Workforce planning sets the direction and goals for the entire human capital lifecycle. From recruiting to employee development, workforce planning is the unifying keystone. Workforce planning is the bridge between the current state and the desired future state. It is nearly impossible to radically change your current workforce regardless of the radical changes in the environment. It is possible, however, to have a radically different workforce in the future without disrupting the efficacy of the current workforce. The critical element is understanding what the future need will be and aligning the need with what the workforce will be able to do at each point in time through workforce planning.

A frequent frustration of workforce planning efforts is that organizational leaders often have little insight into what changes will need to take place for the workforce to meet their strategic goals. It’s very common to see the pace of change overestimated and the level of effort underestimated. The root cause for this problem is that HR is often brought to the table after the decision has been made rather than being part of the decision itself.

GAO has also identified five key principles that strategic workforce planning should address irrespective of what is being done, which you can reference here. The GAO does emphasize that top management, employees, and other stakeholders should be involved in development and implementation of the workforce plan. The GAO does not call out, however, the importance of HR having a seat at the table when the organization sets its overall vision and goals instead of just setting the strategic direction of the workforce after the organizational strategy has already been determined.

When involved in overall agency-wide strategic planning, HR can help line leaders to understand the amount of time and level of investment required for goals to be achieved. From gauging how long it will take to have a workforce with a new skill to understanding how long it takes to stand up a fully effective new function, HR can help the organization to set goals that are achievable within budget and within the necessary timeline. It’s wonderful to have the line leaders’ involvement in the workforce plan. It would be far more effective, however, to also have HR at the forefront of agency-wide strategic planning.

Federal Audits: How Much Evidence is Enough?

evidenceHow much evidence is enough? Is this a question answered by using “professional judgment?”

Unfortunately there is no formula in the Yellow Book – or anywhere else for that matter – that answers these questions.  So … how do we know?

The Yellow Book (para. 6.67) says: “Sufficiency is a measure of the quantity of evidence used for addressing the audit objectives and supporting findings and conclusions.”  O.K. then.  Quantity is the key.  The more evidence we have, the better the audit.  The more people will be convinced of the audit message, right?

Not so fast!  Why gather more evidence than you need?  If a reader is going to be convinced with five pages of evidence, then any more than that is a waste.  Further, the standard goes on to say that sufficiency and appropriateness (the other major characteristic required by the Yellow Book) are relevant concepts.  It says that having a large volume of evidence does not compensate for a lack of relevance, validity, or reliability, the three elements of appropriateness.

So how much evidence is enough? It’s simple.  When there is enough relevant, valid, and reliable evidence to convince the auditee to take action, according to the professional judgment of the auditors. 

Feedback: Pay it Forward

You’ve heard of the expression “pay it forward,” where instead of repaying a favor when a person helps you out, you pay the favor forward by helping someone else when they need it. Well, I couldn’t help but think of this idea as I was recently looking over survey data gathered by a team of my Management Concepts colleagues.

YourFeedbackMattersEach year we work with many individuals who are either working towards or have recently moved into supervisory roles in their organization, and we were curious to see how prepared they felt to take on their new responsibilities.

We asked them a variety of questions about how they:

  • Understand their current supervisory abilities, including their natural leadership skills, personal strengths, and comfort with stepping up to new challenges
  • Understand crucial supervisory skills, such as performance management and career development
  • Can get the best work out of others
  • Make good things happen — by being aware of their surroundings and situations, and taking steps to elicit the best outcome
  • Are prepared to lead others when the organizational landscape is constantly changing

Not surprisingly, after surveying more than 500 emerging leaders, some interesting observations jumped out of the results.

Keeping it Real
I was glad to see that the majority of those who took our supervisor readiness assessment are approaching their supervisory role with a sense of openness and a healthy dose of optimism. They are energized by the ability to help others, and ready to embrace the diversity of those they lead, knowing their teams are likely multi-generational and have varying viewpoints. They are eager to be flexible when challenges arise and willing to recognize when they need to develop new leadership skills to be a better supervisor. More importantly, in my opinion, I am encouraged by their overwhelming interest in asking others to share their observations and experiences and their willingness to take responsibility for mistakes — choosing rather to view them as opportunities for growth.

Pay it Forward
You must approach a supervisory role with a sense of optimism because the reality is being a supervisor is both rewarding and challenging. The good days feel great and put wind behind your sails, but it’s how you choose to navigate difficult situations that is crucial to your success and the success of those you supervise. I bring this up because our survey also showed that the vast majority of new supervisors were, let’s say, hesitant when it comes to bringing up negative or counterproductive behaviors, addressing sensitive topics like poor performance, or giving feedback in general. Understandable responses? No doubt. The good news is you can learn strategies and techniques that make those less-than-comfortable feedback conversations very positive experiences.

FeedbackAnd that’s where pay it forward comes into play. When supervisors take feedback seriously and provide it consistently and constructively, it is the greatest thing you can do to help those you supervise to perform to the best of their ability.  And as an added bonus, it positions them for future supervisory roles. The beautiful thing is that when employees receive the right support from a supervisor, they often are motivated and engaged to pay it forward by becoming supervisors that understand the value of feedback. Over time, that can go a long way towards building a feedback culture, which is priceless

We’d love to hear about how supervisor feedback helped you, and we challenge you to now pay it forward.

Does It Make Any Difference?

ManCon7-20-2120From time to time it is important to take stock of why we invest our energy in the things that occupy us.   Birthdays, job changes, and retirements are points where we as individuals commonly reflect and ask “does what I do make any difference?”

In early August my colleague, Cleve Pillifant, retired from Management Concepts.  He joins the cadre of senior “‘tweens” who work on occasion a few days or weeks here and there, ‘tween work habits compacted over a career and a complete leisure retirement.   Cleve proudly and irreverently (as is his style) titles himself on his LinkedIn consulting LLC as “President and Grand Poobah.”

I’ve known Cleve for less than a year, but we have common root in military careers, his in the Marine Corps, mine in the Army.  At the Management Concepts farewell luncheon, hosted on the outside terrace of our Tysons Corner office building, standing on a stepstool above the group of his friends and co-workers, Cleve made public his reflections on “does it make any difference?”  Typical of a colonel at a change-of-command, he diminished his own importance in favor of the Management Concepts team.

He wanted to give us a final challenge and motivation.  He asked, “In the grand scheme of life, what’s the value that our company gives?”   He paused, giving time for us to consider our own individual efforts to develop and deliver quality training for our many customers.  I reflected that it’s easy to narrowly focus on “the metrics” like enrollment stats or student surveys.   To take satisfaction in a course revised with the latest law and policy changes.  To count the number of successful course deliveries and client “attaboys” and call that success.  Are these the right measures of the value we give? 

Cleve then answered:  The training we provide is important because it changes peoples’ lives for the better.  His point was that training statistics, contracts, and performance metrics are useful to measure progress along the journey, true.  But the significance of our training efforts is only achieved one person at a time: when our adult student gets that promotion, when he discovers an entire new field of work to pursue, when she decides to commit herself to mastery of her career field.  These are points of realization which elevate the trajectory of a person’s career, and we, the Management Concepts team, can take pride that our efforts have this positive impact. 

The genuine reason for our team of professionals who agree to the collective banner of “Management Concepts – Unleashing the Potential of Individuals, Teams, and Organizations” is the achievement of each person who betters their life by the knowledge we convey.

Then, the old colonel didn’t say this, but I knew he was thinking it: “… that’s your mission, and don’t ever forget it.  Carry on!”
Ooorah, Cleve.  And Thanks.  

The Key to Effective Financial Management at DoD: A Well-Trained Workforce

auditingIn an era of constrained Federal budgets, the Department of Defense (DoD) faces increased scrutiny into how it spends and accounts for the large financial resources it utilizes to defend our nation. A major challenge for DoD has been achieving auditable financial statements. The DoD remains the sole cabinet level agency to have not received at least a qualified opinion on its financial statements from an independent outside auditor.

Although it has a goal to achieve full audit readiness for all DoD financial statements by 2017, the Department has some way to go to achieving full audit readiness, as an organization-wide audit has yet to take place. 

Despite the many challenges ahead, the DoD has taken many positive steps towards meeting its goal, and one of the most critically important of these is the increased investment in the financial management workforce.

The Department understands that one of its greatest assets is its people and that it will need to provide them with the necessary tools and knowledge to reach audit readiness. Achieving audit readiness requires a competent financial management workforce that can implement policies to ensure financial operations allow for auditability. Not only must financial resources be accounted for accurately, the DoD must also be able to provide reasonable assurance to auditors that it has done so. Having a wider understanding of auditor’s requirements will increase the likelihood of future successful audits. 

There are many additional benefits to a well-trained workforce, other than helping with audit readiness, including decreases in fraud, waste and abuse, as well as higher employee satisfaction and retention.

The launch of the DoD FM Certification Program is a result of the focus on improving the skills of the financial management workforce.  After a period of planning and pilots, the program has fully launched in the summer of 2014. The certification program has three levels, which the level required for each person is dependent upon their job grade. To achieve their level of certification an individual must complete a range of courses that map to a comprehensive framework of competencies, as well as meet other requirements such as years of experience. The competencies are designed to address the needs of the specific functions within the FM community including accountants, budget analysts, finance and military and civilian pay. 

To facilitate the certification training process, Management Concepts has designed an online tool, FM Connect, which shows users exactly what courses they need to fill their certification training gaps.

Overall, The DoD and its workforce stand to see many benefits from the new certification program and focus on financial management training.