Tools for the workforce

E-Government Task Force

It is no coincidence that several of the Bush administration's e-government initiatives are focused on developing better tools for the federal workforce.

That's what Mark Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government in the Office of Management and Budget, told government and industry leaders last month. Improving training, recruitment and the integration of human resources systems across government are all crucial to improving the performance of government as a whole, Forman said.

Those three initiatives will be led by the Office of Personnel Management and will involve experts from agencies across the federal government. In one case, state and local agencies will also be part of the team as the administration tries to spread best practices and savings throughout government.

The rest of the e-government plan, formally laid out in the President's Management Agenda, focuses on improving federal services for citizens, businesses and other levels of government.

The three projects fall under the internal efficiency and effectiveness category for those intended to improve service for federal employees, often by creating a central system or process to replace the many redundant ones in each agency.

That will mean overcoming reluctance by individual agencies to permanently give up direct control of those systems, said David Temoshok, co-chairman of the e-government team that put together the internal initiatives.

The e-Training initiative is the clearest example of consolidation and could have the biggest impact on the workforce as a whole, Temoshok said. Training is essential to the future of the federal government, and many programs at agencies are teaching almost exactly the same skills, at great cost to the government in time, people and money.

The initiative would bring together common training courses into a central repository that agencies, including those at the state and local levels, can access at any time. Task force estimates show that consolidation could save the government more than $500 million just on redundant licensing and courseware purchase costs, Temoshok said.

But as with all of the initiatives, "to achieve these savings there are going to have to be significant investments upfront," said Myra Shiplett, director of the National Academy of Public Administration's Center for Human Resources Management.

That includes not only deploying new systems, but also training educators how to teach in an electronic classroom and teaching employees how to learn in such an environment, she said.

The Recruitment One Stop initiative could allow managers to streamline the recruitment process "to be able not just to compete [with industry], but to be able to get those candidates across government and place them in the best position," Temoshok said.

Overall, individual agencies will have a "broader, richer pool of applicants to pull from," said Alan Balutis, executive director and chief operating officer of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils.

Balutis spent nearly 18 years in senior IT leadership roles at the Commerce Department, and "from a program manager's point of view, [the initiative] is a wonderful resource," he said.

The Enterprise Human Resources Integration initiative is the one most in the background of the federal workforce management process. OPM Director Kay Coles James will focus primarily on how to synchronize human resources systems with other enterprise resource planning systems agencies are putting in place, Forman said.

This initiative will build on other ideas already under way, such as the Human Resources Data Network. The network will create an electronic file for every federal employee, holding all personnel and employment information in one place.

Focusing on employees

The Office of Personnel Management has been tapped to lead several workforce-related initiatives that fall in the internal efficiency and effectiveness category. They are among the 23 e-government initiatives the White House released late last month.

* e-Training: Create a single repository for common training courses that will be available to all federal, state and local agencies, reducing the costs of developing, maintaining and providing such training.

* Recruitment One Stop: Modify USA Jobs to provide central automated tools to route resumes to the correct agency, assess candidates and provide application status information to job seekers.

* Enterprise Human Resources Integration: Electronically integrate personnel records across government to streamline the process of moving between positions or agencies. Also includes streamlining and consolidating federal travel processes.

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