Among the agencies that have felt increased pressure amid funding questions in recent years, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has managed to mount an impressive turnaround in employee engagement, according to a profile by Nicole Ogrysko at Federal News Radio.
HUD faced the challenge of having lost almost 2,200 employees in just a few years – a decrease in the agency’s workforce size from 9,600 staff members to 7,400.
But at a time when many agencies have felt a similar strain while adjusting to government-wide reorganization demands, HUD’s increased handle on the challenges of workforce management have been notable, with much of the credit for the success belonging to HUD’s Chief Human Capital Officer Towanda Brooks.
Brooks told Federal News Radio that intentionally becoming more strategic was vital.
“We didn’t have an opportunity to do the succession planning, the workforce planning, [or] any of the planning things we needed to do,” Brooks said. “We didn’t really have an eye into what the organization needed. I couldn’t tell you immediately what our retirement eligibility is for the agency as a whole, or for Public and Indian Housing or how many hires I did over a quarter. I couldn’t give you that information because we weren’t strategic enough, and we didn’t have the ability to pull the data quick[ly] enough, because we spent all of our time on the transactional work.”
Brooks has worked previously for both the Department of Defense and the Agriculture Department, among other agencies, ultimately earning a Meritorious Presidential Rank Award for her efforts.
“We spent a lot of time on data and how to analyze data and present the data,” according to Brooks, teaching staff members “how to be that person that’s in between the shared services provider and the program office and how to make that relationship work. … When you’re doing staffing or classification position management, a lot of times you’re not thinking about what accountability really means. You’re thinking about do I get my job done. We had to help them think about accountability in a different way.”
Improving the situation at HUD also meant an increased eye toward the agency workforce’s future.
“We have an aging workforce, so our goal is to create a pipeline of applicants into HUD, into entry-level and mid-career and senior level positions and within HUD, to make sure that our workforce here has the same type of opportunities so that we’re developing our employees at all levels,” Brooks said. “We’re identifying and growing and supporting our leaders, our technical experts and then our essential employees so they can do the work and our total workforce is able to accomplish the mission.”
The efforts of Brooks and her team at HUD have reaped dividends. The fruits of the workforce reshaping efforts have led to a decrease in the time it takes HUD to hire a new employee from 112 days to just 12 days. The agency has also increased its employee engagement scores in the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey from 57 percent in 2014 to 69 percent in 2017.