HUD shows how hiring reform can work

Many agencies have reduced the time it takes to hire a new employee. DoD, Energy and VA are among the departments that have made the most progress over the last...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Department of Housing and Urban Development went from being the poster child for the dysfunctional federal hiring process to being a model of what others are striving for.

HUD reduced the time and steps it takes to hire a new employee significantly over the past year. It is one of the few agencies that already met President Obama’s goal of 80 days to bring in a new employee.

“Our new process is 14 steps, the old one was 39 steps, and we have not just redesigned the process, but we’ve provided workshops for managers and improved accountability across the agency,” said Shaun Donovan, HUD secretary. “We got our hiring process down to 76 days. We are transitioning to a resume based system and using registries to find candidates.”

And HUD is not alone. The departments of Defense, Energy and Veterans Affairs are among the agencies that are making progress in reforming their hiring processes and the time it takes to bring new people on board.

Kathleen Ott, DoD’s acting deputy under secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy, said the Pentagon got its average to 79 days.

Energy is down to 100 days, said Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary. Poneman said their goal is 80 days by the end of 2011.

VA reduced its hiring time by 22 percent, from 102 days to 82 days over the last year.

But it’s at HUD where they not only saw their averages decrease but the changes ushered in a new culture, said Donovan and HUD Chief Human Capital Officer Janie Payne.

“Hiring for too long was thought of as only an HR matter and too often employees asked ‘why can’t HR get their act together?'” said Payne Tuesday at an event in Washington, D.C., discussing the progress agencies made on improving hiring across government.

Payne said one example of how this culture change has taken root is in the HUD’s Office of Housing where Joe Smith, the general deputy assistant secretary, required all his managers to have training, monitors progress, reviews roadblocks and sets high objectives to ensure success.

In fact, across HUD managers can’t hire unless they take training.

“We partnered with the Office of Personnel Management and created training for them,” Payne said. “We have weekly hiring huddles to look at hiring plans, hiring objectives, understand roadblocks and continue to have that conversation.”

Payne said because of these changes the agency recruited hundreds positions last year better than ever before.

OPM Director John Berry did not offer any governmentwide statistics on the hiring reforms, including average time it takes to hire a new employee or how agencies are moving to resumes and away from the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) essays.

“We are going to wait until we get the year data to look at it and get the full picture,” Berry said. “What I see, at least from what we are hearing from Chief Human Capital Officer’s Council and agency reports we are getting, is everyone is moving in right direction. Some are moving faster than others. The style we are taking with this is a peer process, using the CHCO Council to regularly report on what agencies are doing and what is working.”

Berry said he didn’t want to add another reporting burden on agencies. Agencies must report annually on hiring processes in December so if OPM asked them to do the reporting by November, it would double the reporting.

OPM said in October that the average time across government to hire someone was down to 110 days.

Few agencies also discussed their progress in getting rid of KSAs and moving to a resume system.

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