Briefing: IC Reform – Workforce

Analysis of the survey figures from the IC Human Capital Report quantify what most of us have known for a long time: the system is broke. Leadership is poor and untrustworthy, you might as well not have a first-line supervisor, bosses play favorites with rewards despite the fact that this is supposed to be a meritocracy and old-timers of questionable value eat up prime resources that could be better spent on those with current skills. The current civil service model may have done away with the rampant patronage of the original system, but it most certainly has not kept up with the times.

Flexibility in personnel matters – the kind the SECDEF and DNI have argued for and the sort the DHS workforce successfully stopped – is critical. People need to be able to focus on what they need to when they need to and low-level “protection” of top talent has to stop. Those that go should not be those-that-can-be-spared if we are going to maximize our effectiveness.

IC work is in essence the ultimate info-age business and it is only right that we look (in part) to info-age solutions to address related problems. If we are to be as nibble and responsive as the business world we also need to consider the practices that help such entities maintain their fleet-footedness.

  • Performance rankings should take into consideration two factors; supervisor’s input and peer input. Supervisor input is a well-established process that needs little further elaboration. Peer input is built on Digg and/or eBay-seller-style rankings of employee output that is compiled throughout the year. The latter mechanism is to allow for both a broader base of inputs than a potentially overworked supervisor can consider and to help mitigate the effects of supervisor bias (intentional or not).
  • A skill-set ranking should be an additional factor that may raise or lower one’s compensation and position in the hierarchy. Masters of obsolete weapons systems used by adversaries who no longer exist have no place sitting in highly-paid positions of authority when the world and its problems have long since passed them by. Their past service is appreciated, but institution with a lick of smarts keeps that much overhead around for so long. So . . .
  • Establish both an active and inactive Reserve that can be tapped for SHARP and similar efforts as well as used to surge on the mundane when the next significant crisis breaks out.

Perhaps too complicated to fix immediately but something that should be addressed either with a technical solution and/or legislative lobbying, is removing the drudgery of administrative tasks that exempt-class employees are forced to endure. Despite various controls people still fiddle with their (paper) timecards, fudge their leave slips or doctor their travel vouchers. Yet because of this minority a whole internal busy-work industry has arisen to pretend to deal with the problem. More time working, less time filling out forms should be a new mantra for those re-tooling the system. There is enough technology involved with entering the building and accessing required systems to automate a near 100% solution.

Keep people’s focus on the work – the very special and important work – and they’ll cut down on the time they spend looking at supposedly greener pastures.

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