Management of VA:

Improved Human Resource Planning Needed to Achieve Strategic Goals

HRD-93-10: Published: Mar 18, 1993. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 1993.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) current and future human resource needs and how its approach to human resource management supports its needs.

GAO found that: (1) the traditional VA approach to managing personnel has focused on operational personnel activities and compliance with personnel rules; (2) proactive human resource planning includes monitoring and assessing key human resource issues, projecting human resource requirements needed to accomplish VA goals and pinpointing the areas where problems may occur, developing broad human resource goals and related action plans to address identified problems, and assigning accountability for plan accomplishment; (3) VA plans to adjust its service delivery structure to meet the needs of the changing veteran population by employing advanced technologies and medical practices; (4) VA plans to increase the capacity of VA-owned nursing homes in fiscal year 1998 to address the increase in aging veterans; (5) VA lacks an adequate human resource planning system to project its human resource requirements; (6) VA does not systematically monitor and assess the external environmental trends that affect its future workforce or the strengths and weaknesses of its own internal human resource management; and (7) VA needs to address concerns about the effectiveness of its system of rewards and incentives and help managers ensure that qualified personnel are available to accomplish its goals.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA has implemented a human resources planning process. VA's Human Resources Steering Committee provides a forum to link strategic changes in human resources to the department's strategic plan.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should develop an ongoing, comprehensive human resource planning process as a systematic, Department-wide effort.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA developed a mission statement, set of core values, and a vision for human resource management and identified 7 critical success factors to arrive at the vision. The human resource steering committee is a senior group and should provide a forum to link strategic change in human resources to the Department's Strategic Plan and budget. VA has initiated an ongoing developmental process in which line managers and human resource professionals work collaboratively to identify strategic human resource initiatives. The needs of human resource staff and managers have been incorporated into the Pay VA system, which will replace the PAID system.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should assign to the Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration (ASHRA) responsibility for facilitating this process. In conjunction with the administrations, ASHRA should: (1) develop human resource planning guidance and ensure integration with VA strategic planning and budgeting processes; (2) train line managers and human resource professionals in human resource planning; (3) organize and develop human resource professionals throughout VA to become collaborative, future-oriented partners to line managers; and (4) assess the types of data needed for human resource planning and determine their availability in VA. These include projections of optimum levels of staffing and skill mixes. ASHRA should work jointly with the administrations to ensure that the planning process addresses the critical human resource concerns of VA managers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA's strategic plan sets forth responsibilities for the administrators. Also a key component of the overall Department plan was creation of career development, education and training as a unified and strategic initiative.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should assign responsibility for preparing administration-specific human resource plans that support the VA strategic vision to the heads of each administration: the Under Secretary for Health; the Under Secretary for Benefits; and the Director of the National Cemetery System.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs


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