Strategic Federal Human Capital Management – HR Service Delivery



Faced with increased scrutiny, budget constraints and continual pressure to improve service, many federal Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) and HR leaders are taking a hard look at HR Service Delivery as part of their strategic initiatives to modernize their agencies.

This is the fifth post in a series looking at various strategic federal human capital management issues facing federal HR leaders, with HR Service Delivery one of these key concerns.

As Jeff Neal, Senior Vice President at ICF International and former Department of Homeland Security CHCO notes, with “poorly resourced HR offices with poorly trained employees providing substandard services to the agency, no one is going to say they are happy with HR. Yes – the government has a lot of HR rules and regulations. But – HR is a service provider that is supposed to be helping people get things done. If the government is willing to invest in HR and hold HR Offices and individual HR specialists accountable, great HR service is doable.

Federal HR Service Delivery Challenges

Each agency needs to determine if its current model for delivery is adequately addressing the needs of its employees as well its ability to meet the strategic goals of the agency. The traditional model has been a centralized team providing key HR services to address the needs of line managers, employees and senior executives, but often with several decentralized and disparate parts throughout the organization.

In terms of HR Service Delivery, federal agency HR organizations’ challenges can be categorized under three primary areas as they strive to improve agency performance, improve efficiencies and reduce costs:

  • Redundancy: Many agencies have decentralized human resources systems that result in extra expense, wasted resources and a lack of efficiency.
  • Lack of integration and interoperability: Often, agency and service provider systems do not talk to each other, resulting in silos that are ineffective in addressing common problems and an inability to share information. There is also often a lack of integration with and between
    service providers, resulting in further opportunity losses.
  • Lack of complete and current employee lifecycle data: Without measurable data, agencies are unable to gain insight for improved decision making.

Improving Delivery

Technology advances and new skill sets and expectations of today’s workforce afford agencies new opportunities for delivering enhanced HR services. An increased focus on customer service and a desire to become more strategic also challenges HR leaders to look at more modern delivery methods. This can include looking outside to HR business partners, shared HR services and employee self-service, which empowers employees and better accommodates the world in which they live.

Many agencies are turning to cloud-based computing and the Software as a Service (SaaS) model to transform their organizations, which may or may not be implemented via a federal Shared Service Center (SSC). This new delivery model allows HR to realize numerous benefits for their organization and their agency, including:

  • delivery of better services
  • reduced costs
  • better focus
  • delivery of strategic value
  • greater control
  • avoidance of capital outlays
  • system consolidation
  • elimination of redundancies and overlaps
  • achievement of economies of scale
  • continuous business-process improvements.

A Real-World Success Story

With the right vision, motivation and commitment, real federal HR Service Delivery success can be achieved, as this story illustrates.

The United States Department of Agriculture realized that it could not continue to conduct its human resources business as it had been. Too many different systems with different policies were causing too many discrepancies. There was not enough strategic work being done to help the agency achieve its mission.

The strategy for the consolidation was introduced in late 2009, when the department had 30 different staff offices and agencies with human resources offices that used more than 200 information technology systems. USDA has since consolidated many human resources technology systems and is looking to reduce many more, as it realizes the goal of reducing its technology footprint while increasing the functionality and capabilities of the human resources function.

As is typical of many federal agencies, the USDA was struggling without a unified and cohesive human resources strategy, leading to delayed and cost-prohibitive services. The various agencies and staff officers within the department came together to create a single set of human resources business requirements for the department. They focused on functional areas of the Office of Personnel Management’s Business Reference Model, which provided and end-to-end depiction of the human resources business processes taking place in government agencies. It was clear there was no reason for the USDA to have different HR processes and systems.

The many significant outcomes and benefits to the makeover at USDA, referred to as “One USDA,” include:

  • savings of approximately $3 million a year
  • increased functionality of its human resources system
  • enhanced hiring process including reduced time to hire
  • insight from people analytics
  • faster and broader filling of skill gaps
  • cross-agency collaboration and servicing.

HR Service Delivery – A Path to Transforming Federal Human Capital Management

As strategic-thinking federal HR leaders look to transform their organizations, many are looking at HR Service Delivery as the foundation for critical HR revamping. Combining a new way of thinking with the capabilities of flexible, modern technology, these leaders are finding that, while perhaps surprising, HR can be a leader in organizational transformation.

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