Labor embraced enterprisewide shared services, now seeing real savings

Bryan Slater, the assistant secretary for administration and management at the Labor Department, details the agency’s progress in consolidating back-office fu...

The President’s Management Agenda has set a strong course for transforming government into a more efficient, less costly enterprise for American taxpayers; one focused on providing high-quality, easily accessible services to the public.  Among the PMA’s goals are modernizing decades-old technology and overhauling the way we recruit, hire, and retain federal employees. PMA also seeks to improve the way we buy goods and services from American businesses.

As the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the Department of Labor, I have the privilege of overseeing the DOL’s information technology, human resources and procurement, along with a variety of other administrative areas, during a transformative time for the federal government. Over the past three years, we have embraced President Donald Trump’s agenda, focusing aggressively on improving efficiency and effectiveness. Specifically at DOL, we have centralized and standardized the department’s administrative and management functions under an umbrella of “enterprisewide shared services.” This effort has steadily moved the department from a patchwork of IT, HR and procurement shops across our many agencies operating with different processes and customers, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Wage and Hour Division, to an enterprisewide approach that standardizes processes, reduces risks and takes advantage of economies of scale.

Even though we have not completed a full year under enterprisewide shared services, the department is already reaping the benefits for the American taxpayer. Below are just a few of our successes in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department of Labor:

  • In fiscal 2019, the department’s Office of Human Resources decreased average time to hire by 10 days while recruitment actions increased by 41%. This decrease means the agency is quickly filling mission-critical positions that provide direct support to the American public in unemployment insurance, benefits, retirement, occupational safety and health and other workforce protection and development efforts.
  • OHR has also moved from onerous, paper-based forms to automated, electronic processes in the areas of onboarding new staff, developing recruiting materials and job announcements, creating, standardizing, and storing position descriptions, and managing the performance of DOL’s nearly 14,000 employees. These automated processes significantly reduce staff burden and processing times.
  • DOL employees completed over 151,000 training offerings through the department’s learning management system since November 2019. This training includes mandatory and elective training for DOL managers and employees on topics that range from technical skills and competency development to ongoing continuous learning and leadership development. Since March 2020, the majority of this training was provided in a virtual working environment, and has since included additional offerings on safety and health, as the department has had to respond to the challenges of the COVID pandemic.
  • The department completed collective bargaining negotiations with AFGE Local 12, resulting in cost savings and efficiencies. This includes a 25% reduction in workspace requirements, positioning DOL to reduce its rent in Washington, D.C. This year alone, we reduced DOL’s overall space by 48,115 square feet, bringing the five-year total reduction to 371,638 square ft.
  • In fiscal 2019, the department’s acquisition officials achieved one of the highest procurement rates (40%) to small businesses in DOL’s history, totaling $828 million. This included awards to disadvantaged small businesses, women-owned small businesses, HUBZone small businesses, and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
  • DOL’s Suspension and Debarment Program, which is run by the newly-established Office of the Senior Procurement Executive, ensures the government is conducting business only with responsible entities. In the past year it eliminated its backlog, including issuing 130 debarments and 69 suspensions.
  • The Office of the Chief Information Officer has increased the department’s cybersecurity posture and the capacity of its workforce by introducing modernized technology and retiring legacy systems. Transitioning from outdated technology has saved the department approximately $99 million to date.
  • OCIO also launched a common IT platform for all new DOL case management and data analytics systems. This will standardize the way programs collect data and improve the ability to share data across government. In the Office of Foreign Labor Certification alone, this effort has resulted in savings of $2 million per year, completely digitizing the issuance of Labor Certificates to employers in January 2020.
  • OCIO also achieved $119 million in cost savings and avoidance for the department by consolidating 11 data centers, consolidating hardware and software contracts, installing wireless networks in 115 DOL offices and centralizing DOL staff’s workstations under an enterprise lease program.

The department has accomplished all of this in such a short time, and we’re just getting started. In fiscal 2021, our first full year of enterprisewide shared services, we will continue the important work of modernizing and optimizing our services. On the horizon are investments in robotics process automation and artificial intelligence, automating additional paper-based processes and new systems to help us manage our workforce. Through cost savings, streamlining bureaucracy, and standardizing the way we do business, the department is operating more efficiently than it ever has. This means better service to the American workforce and better value for taxpayers.

Bryan Slater is the assistant secretary for administration and management at the Labor Department.

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