Focus group: Agencies ill-equipped to handle workforce reorganization

Fiscal pressures are pushing federal managers to consider reorganization at the agency or program level, but few say they’re prepared to handle the human capital effects of a shake-up.

A new report by the Government Business Council and Deloitte found that most managers interviewed say their agency, department or office lacks the skills or resources needed to monitor and evaluate the effects of reorganization. Only 29 percent feel equipped to manage the effects of reorganization on federal employees.

GBC conducted a focus group of 15 GS/GM-13 through SES-level federal employees from both civilian and defense agencies. The study looked at the perception, attitudes and experience of federal employees regarding potential department-, agency- and program-level reorganizations or consolidations.

Reorganization is old news to federal managers. More than 90 percent of survey participants had experienced reorganization at the department/agency or program/office level. Many managers have gone through multiple reorganizations; 58 percent reorganized at least three times at the agency level and 29 percent had five or more experiences.

Reorganizations brought about numerous human capital and business process challenges: 76 percent of respondents suffered from poor communication from leadership and 59 percent of respondents identified lack of attention to change management during an agency-level reorganization.

Employee resistance and lack of vision also ranked high among management challenges plaguing past reorganizations. But what managers said further complicates matters is how past reorganizations didn’t produce the anticipated outcomes. Only 14 percent of those surveyed at the department/agency level and 13 percent of those at the program/office level acknowledged long-term gains in efficiency from reorganization.
 
Despite the roadblocks, reorganization is still a good idea, according to respondents. To reorganize successfully, respondents advised having a plan created to realize specific goals. Senior leaders should also let employees know in a transparent way what, when and why the reorganization occurring.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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