Major rewrite of federal HR policies in final review

The Office of Personnel Management promised a major rewrite of the policies and procedures that govern federal human resources more than three years ago. That new policy is almost ready.

John Gill, who is on detail to the Office of Management and Budget from his role as the chief human capital officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Nov. 30 that the final rule should be published in the Federal Register in the first quarter of calendar year 2017.

Gill, speaking at the Human Capital Management Government conference in Alexandria, Virginia, said the new policy will be a sea change for federal HR practioners.

“There are not as many reporting requirements [as currently is required] and it’s a routine by which the businesses, the agencies themselves — and it’s not just the human capital officers, but the HR officer and her or his senior leadership — are active participants in developing that human capital plan and making sure it’s embedded into the agency’s strategic plan and operating plan on an annual basis. There are some really good routines that will come out of that,” Gill said. “One of the things I would want you all to keep your eye on is there will be tools that will be put in place such as being able to look at a maturity model associated with your agency and your human capital community within your agency. There are some tremendous opportunities for us as human capital practitioners to really take advantage of the new regulation when it comes out, get into the routines of the HRStat reviews that should be quarterly and to use it to full effect.”

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Gill said the final rule is going through the final review processes at OMB and OPM.

The last revision to these policies was in 2008 when OPM set up Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework (HCAAF) framework and got away from the red-yellow-green reporting approach.

OPM and OMB said in May 2013 in a memo to federal chief human capital officers that they planned to focus on two broad initiatives:

  • Implement workforce strategies that advance each agency’s mission.
  • Streamline core federal HR policies, procedures and technology to support hiring, engaging and retaining employees, while reducing time and costs.

In February 2016, OPM released the proposed rewrite in the Federal Register and comments were due in April.

In the proposed regulation, OPM said the changes would focus on four areas, including creating a human capital strategic review (HCSR) process and developing a new HR framework to integrate four human capital systems — strategic planning and alignment, performance culture, talent management and evaluation.

Jonathan Pugh, the director of human capital services at Golden Key Group, said the HRStat process will be a key piece of the update.

“The process is designed to integrate human capital planning with agency strategic planning, and to have the CHCO lead a quarterly human capital, data driven review session,” he said. “We see the HRStat sessions, done well, as a key governance vehicle for moving human capital forward.”

Golden Key Group provides human capital consulting and services for the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Homeland Security Department’s Immigration and Customs Service.

Pugh added the HRStat process mirrors the quarterly reviews that the Government Performance Results Act Modernization Act mandated agencies to perform.

“We are going to have agency performance improvement officers sit in on these HRStat meetings as another governance mechanism to ensure performance integration is fostered between agency strategic plans and HR plans,” he said. “All of systems and data that are captured now are all about transaction based activities for HR functions, which are staffing, classification, attrition, diversity profiles and similar things. But what are the stats for human capital planning elements? What are the stats for workforce planning, for employee engagement, for retention, for change management, for leadership and for employee development? These are not transactional HR processes. These are areas that require strategic approaches and thinking to develop innovative, tailor-made plans for agencies. HRStat will drive the development of a whole new set of metrics beyond the transitional metrics that are used today.”

Pugh also said this data-driven process will require agencies to relook at who they hire and what skills the human resources executives have because they have to think about the data more strategically.

“HRStat is slow to take off because these skills do not exist in the government,” he said.

Pugh said agencies also will need to shift from human resources to human capital where people are viewed as a strategic asset.

He said like other assets, such as IT or buildings, agencies have to understand that people are the basis for competitive advantage and better meet mission requirements.

OPM first launched the HRStat process in fiscal 2012 as part of the Obama administration’s push to use data to make better decisions.

In its fiscal 2017 budget justification to Congress, OPM says it established the HRStat community of practice (CoP) with members from all 24 CHCO Act agencies. The CoP meets quarterly to collaborate toward governmentwide implementation of HRStat through guidance, assistance and training.

Additionally, OPM says it established four design teams: HRStat Maturity Model, HRStat Annual Review Process, HRStat Training and Tools, and HRStat governmentwide guidance, and identified the key areas addressed by the design teams as critical to ensuring the sustainability of the HRStat program.

“The Maturity Model helps identify criteria to distinguish an agency’s level of maturation in HRStat. The Annual Review Process is an accountability mechanism to help ensure agencies are dedicating efforts to the HRStat program, continuing with their quarterly data-driven reviews, and making progress against their identified goals,” OPM stated.

Reggie Wells, the Social Security Administration CHCO, said his agency has taken advantage of the process to bring various lines of business together to gain insights into the human resources data.

“One of the things that it did for me, personally, is give me some sense of how well we were doing,” Wells said. “We had a sense we were doing a pretty good job. We got most things done within the timeframes required. But we had no sense of whether we were efficient in doing that work, getting a good result for a reasonable cost. HRStat has pointed out very clearly that we are in the upper echelon of agencies that get a bang for their buck. That was huge at our agency.”

Gill said the insights that come from the data will drive the change that’s needed, especially around understanding the workforce skills needed today and in the future.

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