Ask the CHCO: GSA’s Antonia Harris
Federal News Radio recently interviewed Antonia T. Harris, Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) for General Services Administration (GSA), as part of our Ask the CHCO series. Ms. Harris provides not only a clear roadmap for the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) at GSA, but also for the HR profession in the Federal government.
Ms. Harris’s HR philosophy focuses on “understanding the value you add as an individual to the success of the organization.” This is sound advice in any function, but particularly important to HR as HR seeks a seat at the executive table in a more meaningful way. Specifically, HR professionals need to understand the organization they support, not just the HR function. HR professionals are called upon to anticipate the organization’s human capital needs rather than react to the needs. Ms. Harris highlighted three key areas of focus in GSA’s HR organization:
- Use of predictive analytics: A key area of concern for managers at GSA was the hiring process. To address this, OHRM worked with hiring managers to set up Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. They also developed metrics of interest for the hiring managers as well as metrics for OHRM. This allowed HR to clearly distinguish the metrics that matter to the line from those that matter to HR, identify where interests align, and also to anticipate where trade-offs had to be made. This allows OHRM to predict results and adjust processes and effort as needed to improve the outcome.
- Strategic workforce planning: As an organization, GSA has many employees at GS-12 and above, but not enough hiring at lower levels to establish the desired balance. Ms. Harris’s team worked with the line leadership to address staffing needs by quarter and grade level. This enabled OHRM to look at where they need to be as an agency and develop a plan to address the staffing needs, particularly at levels below GS-12. By using a data-driven workforce planning process, OHRM improved the quality of candidates through the Pathways Programs.
- Focus on Customer Service: HR professionals have to balance HR program needs with the needs of their customers. In the past at GSA, this role was played by the HR Liaisons. Ms. Harris’s team redesigned that, creating two distinct roles (i.e., national account manager and regional account manager). This new structure supports the services and staff offices in ensuring that national strategies are being identified and managed by the OHRM, while still maintaining the priorities of OHRM that may take precedence over regional managers’ priorities. All of this, however, is still focused on the customer. Each HR professional is now part of OHRM and tasked with understanding how what each individual supports the organization and their role in the overall agency success.
What I find most interesting about these three areas is the necessary integration of each to improve the other. Workforce planning requires good data and metrics but even with those, workforce planning simply cannot be done without your customer’s involvement and buy-in. At its core, however, all of it comes down to understanding how your agency will meet its mission objectives. What metrics best predict your organization’s ability to meet mission objectives either directly or indirectly? What are the current talent needs and those expected in the future? Finally, as Ms. Harris asks, “How do you see yourself in the success of the organization?”