HR officers hold key to workforce

USA Jobs

The director of the Office of Personnel Management has tapped human resources managers to play a central role in solving the government's workforce crisis.

Human resources officers should become the "chief human capital officers" in their agencies, said Kay Coles James, speaking Sept. 10 at the Transitions and Solutions Conference sponsored by OPM and the National Academy of Public Administration. As workforce experts, HR officers should "sit at the table with" the chief information officer and the chief financial officer.

President Bush has asked agencies to "work on e-government and produce results through producing knowledge workers"—a mandate that creates a new challenge for human resources managers, James said. "In the old days, an HR person's job was only getting the applications processed and getting them through the system." Today, they need to find the best way to hire knowledge workers and reward them for the jobs they do, she said.

James said OPM is committed to modernizing the government hiring and compensation processes. For instance, the agency is beefing up its online job site, USA Jobs and automating the hiring process to track applications.

"One of the things that I think is going to be essential in bringing about these sorts of transitions and changes, even in the area of technology, is changing the image of who human resources people are," James said. "So right up there with the budget, right up there with strategic planning, is the management of human capital."

Meanwhile, NAPA is drafting a set of information technology competencies for HR employees to help them understand "what they need to know," said Sally Marshall, senior consultant at NAPA's Center for Human Resources Management. "Technology changes the nature of our jobs [and] we need to understand" how to use it, she said.

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