Constructing a New Personnel System for a Federal Agency

DHS has set a number of goals in constructing a new personnel system for the agency

If you could set up an agency, how would you construct the personnel system? Would you use the same system used by other federal agencies? It seems that most agencies would like to scrap the existing system. Deciding what will replace that system is a challenge though.

The Department of Homeland Security is a unique bureaucratic organization. It has to create a new personnel system to combine a number of agencies with different cultures and missions into one coherent organization.

Even employees who are not in DHS are likely to be impacted by the new agency in that it may drive how personnel systems in other agencies are developed and implemented. In other words, it is possible the DHS personnel system (whatever it may turn out to be) will be coming to your agency in the next few years.

According to a new GAO report, agency representatives have agreed on a number of goals in trying to develop this new system. Here are those goals:

1. Ensure top leadership drives the transformation. Leadership must set the direction, pace, and tone and provide a clear, consistent rationale that brings everyone together behind a single mission.

2. Establish a coherent mission and integrated strategic goals to guide the transformation. Together, these define the culture and serve as a vehicle for employees to unite and rally around.

3. Focus on a key set of principles and priorities at the outset of the transformation.

4. Set implementation goals and a timeline to build momentum and show progress from day one.

5. Dedicate an implementation team to manage the transformation process.

6. Use the performance management system to define responsibility and assure accountability for change.

7. Establish a communication strategy to create shared expectations and report related progress. The strategy must reach out to employees, customers, and stakeholders and engage them in a two-way exchange.

8. Involve employees to obtain their ideas and gain their ownership for the transformation. Employee involvement strengthens the process and allows them to share their experiences and shape policies.

9. Build a world-class organization. Building on a vision of improved performance, the organization adopts the most efficient, effective, and economical personnel, system, and process changes and continually seeks to implement best practices.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47