Small and mid-size federal agencies regularly encounter unique challenges not faced by their larger counterparts. With fewer resources and an equal number of tasks to complete, HR specialists and administrators must carefully manage their time and evaluate how best to augment staff and utilize technology.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common challenges faced by these smaller agencies and how they can be addressed.
Limited Bandwidth for Non-Administrative Tasks
In an agency with fewer than 300-500 employees, there may be only 1-2 HR specialists on staff. Despite the much smaller department size, these specialists are tasked with the same number of federally-required administrative tasks, resulting in a much smaller percentage of time available to work on non-administrative work, and often little or no budget to hire additional employees.
In this environment, HR is focused on tasks such as classification and position management, reporting to meet various federal guidelines, recruiting, hiring and staffing, retirement calculations and processing, on-boarding of new employees, records management, benefits processing, performance management, payroll management, employee and labor relations, and personnel processing.
Every action in the federal employee lifecycle falls to this small team of HR specialists, leaving them little or no time to work on higher level, strategic tasks. They can complete annual reports but acting on the findings of those reports is often not possible.
The Limitations of Legacy Software
One of the reasons small and mid-size agencies face greater struggles is that their software systems are frequently out of date and insufficient to meet the modern needs of the Federal Government.
Not only are security requirements evolving, often rendering old systems difficult to use in key situations, but there are new job functions being added that may not be covered by these older systems. Budget remains limited, however, meaning that it is difficult for agencies to upgrade their software or replace it with modern, cloud-based alternatives that would meet these requirements. And even when they are able to upgrade, training and integration can be a time and resource intensive process.
And yet, there are a number of benefits for agencies that can upgrade their legacy systems. Shifting paper-based processes like retirement calculation, employee onboarding and benefits form processing to modern HR software can save anywhere from 40-67% of administrative time, greatly reducing the burden of these recurring tasks on a small HR team.
Some agencies mitigate these challenges by outsourcing additional administrative tasks to larger agencies that have the bandwidth to support them. Government employees are able to handle these tasks without additional training, and the software limitations of the smaller agency becomes less of an issue.But new problems can arise; even if they have different requirements or internal rules, these smaller agencies must follow the processes of the agency with which they have partnered. This can create additional work down the line and can lead to potential reporting delays.
How to Address Small and Mid-size Agency HR Challenges
While these challenges can be daunting for a single HR specialist with a heavy workload to manage, there are options such as managed services. By hiring contractors on a part- or full-time basis, who can scale to shifting needs throughout the year, small and mid-size agencies can reduce the burden of administration without it impacting quality or performance.
When combined with a robust training program that ensures these contractors are ready to take on federal HR tasks and modern federal HR software, a managed service solution can be faster, more efficient, and scalable to match the budget, workload, and process requirements of even the smallest federal agency.
We help federal and state agencies to improve their operational efficiency, make better data-driven decisions, and empower state and federal governments to improve the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of HR operations to manage the “Hire-to-Retire” lifecycle. From consulting and staffing services to operational and analytical software, we have continued to add innovative and cost-efficient solutions that foster a highly productive and fulfilled workforce for our federal and state clients since 1990.