GPO CHCO details buyout offers

The Government Printing Office wants to reduce staffing by 15 percent, and is offering buyouts as a way of getting there. Eventually. CHCO William Harris says t...

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

As Federal News Radio has been telling you, buyouts and early outs are coming to the Government Printing Office. Eventually.

Chief Human Capital Officer, Dr. William T. Harris, told the Federal Drive GPO expects to accept applications for the buyouts in early fall through the middle of November and then have employees off the rolls by December 31 of this year.

Harris noted that nearly a thousand of the agency’s 2,200 employees are eligible for retirement, but “we’re going to allow any employee in the agency to apply. So anyone can apply. Now of course there are some standard rules in terms of who’s eligible, which we’re explaining to our employees.”

Harris described the process as “thoughtful” for this round of buyouts.

“We had run buyouts from 2003 to 2005 and we’ve learned a number of lessons from that,” said Harris. “So this go-round we’re spending the summer with our managers with workforce planning as their primary focus to try to restructure the organization, and then we’ll be offering buyouts and early outs to our employees in the fall sometime. And in the meantime, we’re offering FAQs, briefings for employees, one on one conversations – a variety of things. We’re meeting with our labor leaders, so we’re trying to do this in as thoughtful a way as possible.”

Harris said one of the lesson learned during the three earlier buyouts starting in 2003 stands out. “About 631 of our employees took it during that point in time. And one of the things we found is, because we didn’t do a lot of comprehensive workforce planning at that point, we ended up having to rehire some of those employees. And we also had some issues with supervisor-employee ratios not really being where they needed to be.”

Which is at the core of the advice Harris said he would give to any of the other agencies considering buyouts. “Make sure you’re able to restructure your organization to effectively continue to provide your mission critical services with a smaller workforce, and that’s certainly not easy, particularly at GPO where we’re already pretty lean.”

Slow, thoughtful planning is also at the heart of the advice Harris said he would you give to GPO feds facing the option of taking a buyout.

“One of the reasons that we’re not pushing the buyouts and the early outs any sooner than we are is because we realize these are difficult decisions employees need to make. These are life-changing decisions about when to retire and how to take care of your families and so we want to make sure they have all the information they need, that we give them the right counseling, that they have an informed decision when they decide to leave.”

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