To answer this question, I checked in with my former colleague and friend, Dr. Barbara Male.
Dr. Male retired from the federal government in April 2008 after 25 years of federal service, most recently serving as a Deputy Assistant Secretary with the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM). She was a career member of the Senior Executive Service and received the Presidential Rank Award in 2004 as a Meritorious Executive for her innovative work in human capital management.
Andy: Why do public sector organizations struggle with workforce planning?
Barb: Agencies think of it as an HR function, when it really ought to be a program function. Often, a leader doesn’t realize the value in gaining CLEAR insights into who they need, when they need them, and with what skills. Leaders tend to get bogged down with the day-to-day work (taskers, clearances, briefings), causing them to lose focus on what can sometimes be dramatic changes in resources. They’re driving the resource train, and therefore need to know what projects look like, and what outcomes needs to be achieved. A true leader can’t just turn over workforce planning to the human capital group to do in a vacuum.
Andy: Can you give me an example?
Barb: Sure. For instance, when you’re closing a nuclear site and returning it to the community, transitioning these types of people to different positions becomes very real. It’s critical for program leaders to meet with staff, unions, and other stakeholders. If it’s only done to check a box, it’s not valuable. Rather, it’s important to ask questions. For a site with 100 people, what kind of nuclear engineering work would be necessary? What kind of scientific expertise would be needed in the workforce? What are the logical points for employee transitions? Involving technical and scientific experts in workforce planning yielded far better outcomes than HR’s limited vantage point. Plus, it was a wonderful collaboration that infused the organization with new talent and fresh perspectives.
Does your office struggle with workforce planning? If so, why?