Workforce Planning:

Interior, EPA, and the Forest Service Should Strengthen Linkages to Their Strategic Plans and Improve Evaluation

GAO-10-413: Published: Mar 31, 2010. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 2010.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Anne-Marie Lasowski Fennell
(202) 512-4146
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO and others have shown that successful organizations use strategic workforce planning to help meet present and future mission requirements. Although agency approaches to strategic workforce planning can vary depending on needs and mission, GAO and the Office of Personnel Management have identified six leading principles that workforce planning should address. The Appropriations Committees directed GAO to review workforce planning at the Department of the Interior (Interior), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. GAO examined (1) workforce planning processes used at each agency, (2) the extent to which these processes incorporate the six principles, and (3) how, if at all, the agencies link workforce planning with the annual budget allocation processes. GAO reviewed agencies' workforce plans, strategic plans, and budget documents and interviewed human resources, planning, and budget officials.

Interior, EPA, and the Forest Service vary in their approaches to workforce planning. Interior's workforce planning occurs at its eight bureaus, which use departmental guidance to develop their own workforce plans in a generally consistent format. EPA issued an agencywide plan in 2006 that is currently being updated, and the Forest Service has issued annual agencywide workforce plans since 2007. The agencies vary in the extent to which they incorporate the six leading workforce planning principles, but they generally do not link their workforce plans and their strategic plans or monitor and evaluate their workforce planning efforts. The six leading principles and agency actions are as follows: (1) Align workforce planning with strategic planning and budget formulation. The agencies generally do not align their workforce and strategic plans and differ in whether they considered their workforce plans when formulating their budgets. (2) Involve managers, employees, and other stakeholders in planning. The agencies varied in the extent to which they involved top managers and others in developing workforce plans. (3) Identify critical occupations, skills, and competencies and analyze workforce gaps. The agencies have taken some steps to identify mission-critical occupations and competencies, which form the basis for much of the agencies' workforce planning. (4) Develop strategies to address workforce gaps. The agencies have identified some strategies to address certain workforce gaps. (5) Build capacity to support workforce strategies. The agencies varied in the actions they have taken to support workforce planning efforts through the effective use of human capital flexibilities, such as recruitment and retention incentives. (6) Monitor and evaluate progress. The agencies generally have not monitored and evaluated the results of their workforce planning efforts. The agencies do not directly link their workforce planning and budget allocation processes. At Interior, although unit and program officials in some bureaus use workforce plans to distribute staff geographically, the bureaus do not track how program officials use workforce plans to allocate funds. EPA's process for allocating resources involves making annual incremental adjustments to prior year allocations and does not directly link to workforce plans. The Forest Service's budget allocation guidance does not mention workforce planning directly. However, according to Forest Service executive leaders, the agency takes workforce planning information into consideration at the unit and program levels during budget formulation and again during the annual budget allocation process.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To ensure that Interior, EPA, and the Forest Service more fully incorporate leading workforce planning principles into their workforce planning efforts, the Secretary of the Interior, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Chief of the Forest Service, should incorporate into their agency's workforce plans clear and explicit links between the workforce plans and the strategic plan, and describe how the workforce plans will help the agency achieve its strategic goals.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of this report, EPA agreed with the principles underlying our recommendations.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Interior, EPA, and the Forest Service more fully incorporate leading workforce planning principles into their workforce planning efforts, the Secretary of the Interior, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Chief of the Forest Service, should establish mechanisms that their agency can use to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of its workforce planning efforts, particularly in achieving the agency's strategic goals.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of this report, EPA agreed with the principles underlying our recommendations.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Interior, EPA, and the Forest Service more fully incorporate leading workforce planning principles into their workforce planning efforts, the Secretary of the Interior, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Chief of the Forest Service, should establish mechanisms that their agency can use to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of its workforce planning efforts, particularly in achieving the agency's strategic goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Open

    Comments: Based on review of the agency's 60-day letter and information received from the Forest Service through July 2011, this recommendation has not yet been implemented.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Interior, EPA, and the Forest Service more fully incorporate leading workforce planning principles into their workforce planning efforts, the Secretary of the Interior, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Chief of the Forest Service, should establish mechanisms that their agency can use to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of its workforce planning efforts, particularly in achieving the agency's strategic goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department will issue guidance to bureaus and offices on the development of workforce plans that incorporate direction to include linkages to the strategic goals. The bureau workforce plan will identify critical skills needed, strategies to fill mission critical competency gaps and approaches to revise and evaluate those plans on an annual basis.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Interior, EPA, and the Forest Service more fully incorporate leading workforce planning principles into their workforce planning efforts, the Secretary of the Interior, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Chief of the Forest Service, should incorporate into their agency's workforce plans clear and explicit links between the workforce plans and the strategic plan, and describe how the workforce plans will help the agency achieve its strategic goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department has an established Accountability Program for monitoring, analyzing, and improving all aspects of our Human Capital Management. The program will be expanded to include oversight of our bureau workforce planning process. Utilizing the systems associated with the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework (HCAAF) to measure the bureau's progress will ensure alignment of the Department's workforce plans with strategic goals and a results-oriented performance culture.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Interior, EPA, and the Forest Service more fully incorporate leading workforce planning principles into their workforce planning efforts, the Secretary of the Interior, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Chief of the Forest Service, should incorporate into their agency's workforce plans clear and explicit links between the workforce plans and the strategic plan, and describe how the workforce plans will help the agency achieve its strategic goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Open

    Comments: Based on review of the agency's 60-day letter and information received from the Forest Service through July 2011, this recommendation has not yet been implemented.

    Recommendation: To further capitalize on the Forest Service's existing workforce planning efforts, the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Chief of the Forest Service, should establish processes for (1) communicating the recommendations in the agency's annual 5-year workforce plans; (2) assigning responsibility and establishing time frames for implementing the recommendations; and (3) tracking implementation of the recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Open

    Comments: Based on review of the agency's 60-day letter and information received from the Forest Service through July 2011, this recommendation has not yet been implemented.

    Apr 9, 2014

    Mar 4, 2014

    Jan 29, 2014

    Jul 18, 2013

    Jul 8, 2013

    Apr 16, 2013

    Mar 15, 2013

    Jan 23, 2013

    Dec 14, 2012

    Dec 3, 2012

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here