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EPA keeping its finger on the workforce’s pulse with HR analytics

The Environmental Protection Agency, like many other organizations, has huge amounts of data about its workforce at its disposal. But it’s not just using that...

The Environmental Protection Agency, like many other organizations, has huge amounts of data about its workforce at its disposal. But it’s not just using that data to understand the present – the agency’s also using it to plan “EPA 2.0”.

Helena Wooden-Aguilar, EPA’s deputy assistant administrator, for workforce solutions, said analyzing data can help organizations make better data-driven decisions, improve employee engagement, and determine the future of a workforce.

We have an office called the Office of Human Resources Strategy (OHRS), and a big part of that job is to take a look at the agency as a whole. What are the core jobs that we need to do to meet the mission of EPA, protect human health and the environment?  Those are the conversations we have at the leadership level.”

Wooden-Aguilar emphasized the importance of HR analytics as “keeping their finger on the pulse” for not just their mission support, but also analyzing data and translating it so that employees at EPA can make decisions on workforce issues, including identifying people who are interested in joining EPA.

We use data to help us better understand our customers right within the organization and how well we are performing. It’s a dual purpose. It’s making sure we meet our customer’s needs and how are we doing,” Wooden-Aguilar said on Federal Monthly Insights — Leveraging data and automation to drive HR transformation. “It gives us a right direction to move forward. We’re always planning for the future. We like to keep our finger on the pulse of not just our current employees, but those that are interested in the Environmental Protection Agency. So it gives us an opportunity to take a look at what are the different attributes that new employee would be interested in.”

OHRS also uses data analytics to determine the jobs of the future and how EPA fits into that. Wooden-Aquilar said they’re always trying to figure out where there are opportunities to fill skill gaps needed in EPA.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the primary data source for those efforts.

“We currently use a federal wide data source, then there’s another data set that we collect at EPA where we survey. We survey our new employees to try to collect some data on what are the things that are important to them,” Wooden-Aguilar told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin.We also use dashboards to actually take data that’s voluntarily given to us and visualize it. That’s an important piece because as I’ve been in the government for about 20 years and I realized that people want to see not just raw data, they want to see it in a very beautiful way, in a very digestible way.”

Wooden-Aguilar said OHRS considers itself a bridge between data crunching and data analytic translators. While data is collected in the agency, OHRS plays a role in analyzing the data and translating it for a better understanding in the workforce. For example, tracking employees who left EPA but analyzing why they decided to leave and what roles they were in.

EPA recently established the Office of Environmental Justice as the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility topic is being pushed through several agencies.

“We have created an office of Inclusive excellence, their focus is really, diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, but more so it’s at the policy level, what is the agency doing and how are we thinking about that work,” Wooden-Aguilar said.

EPA is also in the middle of competition for talent with other agencies in the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and government.

“I’m happy to say that EPA is in the top ten of employers in the federal government.  So we continue to really take seriously how we’re showing up in the workforce. We are out there recruiting constantly trying to ensure that we are showing up in the right way. We are definitely in competition with a number of departments and agencies. But I like to say to young people when I speak to them, a yes to the federal government is a yes to EPA, regardless of where you go and what you do,” Wooden-Aguilar said.

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