2010 Census: Census Bureau Should Refine Recruiting and Hiring Efforts and Enhance Training of Temporary Field Staff

GAO-07-361 Published: Apr 27, 2007. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 2007.
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Highlights

The success of the 2010 Census depends, in part, upon the U.S. Census Bureau's (Bureau) ability to recruit, hire, and train over half a million temporary workers at peak. Under the Comptroller General's authority, GAO reviewed the extent that the Bureau's (1) recruiting and hiring processes for these staff are consistent with selected human capital principles and (2) training delivery and content take into account known challenges. To answer these questions, GAO analyzed relevant reports and past recommendations to select principles for evaluating these activities, reviewed related Bureau documents, observed the 2006 Census Test in South Dakota and Texas, and interviewed Bureau officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce To improve the Bureau's recruiting, hiring, and training of temporary field staff, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau to, in order to refine its approach to recruiting and hiring, evaluate the factors that are associated with and predictive of employee interest in census work, performance, and commitment. These factors may include prior work experience and employment status. The Bureau should determine the best way to measure employee performance for the purposes of this analysis. The Bureau should also consider these findings for better targeting applicants in subsequent decennial operations. This effort could be conducted during address canvassing and other early operations during the 2008 Dress Rehearsal and during the 2010 Census. The resulting information will be useful when recruiting and hiring for the Bureau's largest decennial operation, nonresponse follow-up, and subsequent operations.
Closed – Implemented
During the 2010 Census, the Bureau implemented our recommendation to better target applicants in subsequent decennial operations. Specifically, the Bureau made changes to their recruiting and hiring practices for employees for field operations conducted close to the end of 2010 data collection. For example, the Bureau used enumerators with nonresponse follow-up experience to conduct the Vacant Delete Check operation. The Bureau also conducted tests during enumerator training for the 2010 Nonresponse Follow-up operation to explore the need for new selection tools during the 2020 Census. During April 2011, the Bureau reported the project manager continued to work on finalizing the results of the tests. These actions taken by the Bureau represent a credible step towards addressing our recommendation.
Department of Commerce To improve the Bureau's recruiting, hiring, and training of temporary field staff, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau to determine the best way to gather employee performance data during the address canvassing operation in the 2010 Census to inform rehiring decisions during subsequent operations.
Closed – Not Implemented
On June 25, 2007, the Bureau outlined its plans to address our recommendations. The Bureau did not agree with this recommendation and plans no new action.
Department of Commerce To improve the Bureau's recruiting, hiring, and training of temporary field staff, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau to modify recruiting and hiring tools, including the skills test and phone interview, to better differentiate applicants with the skills and competencies needed by crew leaders from those who would be better suited for other field positions.
Closed – Implemented
In April 2007, GAO recommended that the Census Bureau modify its recruiting and hiring tools to better differentiate applicant skill sets and competencies. Based on this recommendation the Bureau developed a new applicant assessment process, and in February 2018 the Bureau provided a technical report that demonstrated their efforts to differentiate applicant skill sets. Additionally, at the January 2018 Program Management Review Bureau officials offered a recruitment and assessment demonstration which showed stakeholders how the Bureau has modified their recruiting and hiring tools. These actions will improve the Bureau's recruiting, hiring, and training of temporary field staff; which should lead to efficiency gains.
Department of Commerce To improve the Bureau's recruiting, hiring, and training of temporary field staff, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau to evaluate the effectiveness of alternate approaches for delivering training, including the use of video content, as compared to the current verbatim approach. If new approaches are found to be more effective, evaluate the feasibility of delivering this type of training during subsequent operations.
Closed – Not Implemented
On November 30, 2009, the Bureau said the agency continues to believe that verbatim training is the most effective method to train the trainers who will train short term census workers and will help ensure consistency among training. The Bureau does not believe using video training is feasible because of costs and logistics. The Bureau plans no new action.
Department of Commerce To improve the Bureau's recruiting, hiring, and training of temporary field staff, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau to, prior to the 2010 Census, incorporate into training visual aids illustrating how to conduct census work.
Closed – Implemented
During 2009 census field operations, the Bureau utilized visual aids for conducting work on address canvassing and group quarters validation. For address canvassing, the Bureau prepared and distributed poster-size screen shots for using the handheld computers that were posted on walls during training classes. The Bureau also developed quick reference guide for each worker. For group quarters validation, the Bureau provided four large maps in the training kits to make map training more efficient and easy to understand. On November 30, 2009, the Bureau announced the agency will is developing visual aids for workers conducting Nonresponse Follow-up during the summer of 2010.
Department of Commerce To improve the Bureau's recruiting, hiring, and training of temporary field staff, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau to revise or modify training to enhance material on reluctant respondents so that field staff are provided with a realistic impression of the prevalence of respondent reluctance and strategies for convincing these respondents to participate.
Closed – Implemented
During July 2009, the Bureau completed its 2010 enumerator training manual and instruction guide for Nonresponse Followup.
Department of Commerce To improve the Bureau's recruiting, hiring, and training of temporary field staff, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau to prepare training modules addressing prototypical location-specific challenges that may be selected and used by regional or local census offices. For example, modules on situations localities may face--such as enumerating apartment buildings or dealing with empty mobile home sites--could be centrally developed by Bureau officials to ensure the consistency and quality of such modules. Local or regional officials could then select those modules most appropriate to the local area for use in training.
Closed – Implemented
During 2009, the Bureau developed job aids for location specific challenges such as hard to find multi-unit buildings, natural disaster areas for census workers to use during the address canvassing operation.

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