Report: Agencies should use data to revitalize HR

Federal agencies are not using all of the workforce data and analytics tools necessary to manage their offices, according to a new report released by a nonpartisan organization claiming to “revitalize” the federal government’s human resources efforts.

“Embracing Change: CHCOs Rising to the Challenge of an Altered Landscape,” released jointly by The Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton LLP, identifies five challenges facing the federal workforce: diminishing budgets, declining employee engagement, hiring difficulties, not using necessary data and analytics tools, and a weakening human resources infrastructure and workforce.

The Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization, partnered with Grant Thornton LLP, one of the six global audit, tax and advisory organizations that services the public and private sector, and conducted interviews with 62 federal chief human capitol officers and human resources leaders.

This is the fifth report in a series, which began in 2007, addressing challenges in the federal workforce.  The 2012 report recommended an increase in standardization of HR IT and the use of shared services.


In the latest report, the partnership said if an agency had good data gathered through effective analytics, it would help guide federal workforce rebuilding efforts.

“Interviewees said their agencies are not using all the analytics tools necessary to manage the workforce effectively,” the report said.

In one example highlighted by the report, an agency was using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to manage workforce planning because it didn’t have the budget to invest in a more-automated tool. 

“We are spending too much money delivering HR,” a human capital officer told the authors of the report. “I would like data, training, analytics and tools to help working managers better manage their employees and the mission.”

But efforts are underway to make better use of metrics and data.


“There is a growing effort to develop and improve the use of reliable and meaningful data and metrics,” the report said. “Sustained attention is needed both to data development and to organizations’ ability to analyze and use that data effectively.”

For each challenge presented in the report, the authors make a recommendation as to how agencies should address it. In the case of the challenge facing agencies and their use of data, the report recommended to “continue to develop and make good use of workforce data and analytics tools.”

“A relatively low percentage of respondents said they were helped by tools intended to assist with managing their workforces,” the report said.

The report charged the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget to continue its emphasis on data-driven tools for HR positions within the government.

“For example, an administration goal in the 2015 budget to create a culture of engagement and an engagement dashboard will reinforce the need for agency managers to make use of the data to improve the workplace in response to employee feedback,” the report said.


In addition, the report recommended that other federal agencies work with the OPM to broaden the scope of metrics available for their HR sphere.

Quotes in the report from HR leaders and CHCOs suggest that with access to additional data, additional analysis tools and a more-defined HR plan that includes data, their jobs could be more effective.

“Workforce planning can help agencies deal with any future increase in employee turnover,” the report said, “but only if agency leaders support and embrace it and see it as a basic management responsibility, not just an HR function.”

Jake Williams

Written by Jake Williams

Jake Williams is a Staff Reporter for FedScoop and StateScoop. At StateScoop, he covers the information technology issues and events at state and local governments across the nation. In the past, he has covered the United States Postal Service, the White House, Congress, cabinet-level departments and emerging technologies in the unmanned aircraft systems field for FedScoop. Before FedScoop, Jake was a contributing writer for Campaigns & Elections magazine. He has had work published in the Huffington Post and several regional newspapers and websites in Pennsylvania. A northeastern Pennsylvania native, Jake graduated magna cum laude from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, or IUP, in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in political science. At IUP, Jake was the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Penn, and the president of the university chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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