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CHIPS Articles: Workforce Planning — Not Just a Buzzword

Workforce Planning — Not Just a Buzzword
By Sandra J. Smith - April-June 2002
"People are important and we must invest in them. Our competency management program will help us identify specific ways to hire and develop the people who have the knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors needed to meet the Technology, Information, and Knowledge requirements of the Department of the Navy now and in the future."


Workforce planning is not a new topic — most organizations do some form of it. However, in most cases, the approach is one dimensional, responding only to the question, "How many people do we need — or can we afford — to get the work done?" This method is usually driven by available budget or the need to fill vacancies caused by attrition. The process is transactional and short term.

The strategic approach to workforce planning is far more comprehensive. It takes the long view of the needs of the organization, focusing on necessary competencies and the changes in functions as a result of changing missions, new processes and environmental factors. This is the approach the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer (DON CIO) is taking to the Information Management/Information Technology (IM/IT) workforce.

Through its Competency Management Team, DON CIO has established a vision for the IM/IT workforce to ensure it has the right people with the right skills in the right jobs at the right times. This vision is in line with Clinger-Cohen Act responsibilities, which directs CIOs to provide guidance for developing plans for hiring, training, and professional development for the IM/IT and Knowledge Management (KM) workforce.

This article, and subsequent articles in CHIPS are provided to expand the knowledge and understanding of workforce planning and the Competency Management Team. We will highlight processes, studies and products. This article discusses two recent products: the Career Planning Tool (CPT) and the Workforce CD-ROM.

The Environment

Much has been written about the federal government's "war for talent" — the need to attract, hire, and retain top-notch employees while coping with significant changes in the demographics of the federal workforce: the loss of corporate knowledge as individuals retire; and the attractiveness of many private sector positions.

Nowhere is the impact of these workforce trends felt more clearly than in the IM/IT domain. While the government is moving aggressively to modernize its IT and capitalize on information to transform the way it does business, it must also determine how to obtain and sustain IM/IT professionals with the competencies — the knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors — needed to exploit new technology and information capabilities.

The current IT revolution has few equals in any other period of history. With computing power comes an enormous capacity for change. Over the past few years, the DON has seen a transformation in processes that capitalizes on the awesome potential of advanced information technology. We know that military success across the spectrum of Navy and Marine Corps missions relies on exploiting information to maximize the effectiveness of every individual and every organization. We have given Knowledge Superiority equal emphasis in warfighting with Forward Presence.

We now need a corps of knowledge workers — educated, trained and motivated military, civilians, and contractors — to develop and maintain our technological edge. Considering the enormous changes taking place in IM/IT, and the external pressures and demands that occur in this environment, the DON CIO considered it essential to take a strategic view of the Department's IM/IT human capital.

Over the past 18 months, the DON CIO has been actively engaged in workforce planning — creating a strategic vision, evolving processes, and developing tools to support the IM/IT community and shape it to meet the future.

Human Capital — the Key to High Performance Organizations

There has been a common awakening across the Federal Government to the importance of people. Greater effort has been focused on recognizing their worth and integrating their management into organizational strategy. While people have always been important to producing goods and services, the changing nature of work — the shift to greater use of knowledge workers — increases the value of human capital. Simply stated, human capital is the sum of the knowledge, experience, expertise, capability, capacity and creativity possessed by the individuals of an organization. Human capital merges with social capital (the relationships and networks in an organization) and corporate capital (the intellectual property and processes of an organization) to create intellectual capital.

An organization's intellectual capital enables a knowledge enterprise, deriving power through its people — what they know, how they bring their knowledge together, and how they translate that knowledge into action. Knowledge management — the ability to harness the intellectual capital of an organization — fuels organizational success. We need to leverage our human capital through knowledge management, resulting in greater emphasis on developing and retaining our human capital. In the past, the DON, like other government agencies, responded to shortcomings by creating frameworks for more business-like and results-oriented management; the primary focus was on financial issues, increased information technology and performance-based management.

In our new environment, competition for technical talent combined with projected government employee retirements highlight the need for human capital management. We know that high performance organizations choose strategies to integrate their organizational components, activities, processes and resources to support their mission. Likewise, high performance organizations align their human capital — from the organizational level to the individual — with their strategic planning. This requires strategic workforce planning to identify current and future human capital needs — and DON CIO has taken the lead in this area for the IM/IT workforce.

What's been done

In 1999, the DON CIO invested in planning for human capital by establishing a dedicated team devoted to Competency Management. An overall schema was developed to understand workforce issues and create an enterprise approach to the IM/IT workforce. This approach focused on a strategy for leveraging human capital by considering four key issues: (1) ensure we recruit, train, and retain the IM/IT/KM workforce needed to fulfill core capabilities, (2) establish IM/IT/KM competency guidelines for the non-IM/IT/KM workforce, (3) develop IM cognitive skills through integrative competencies, and (4) ensure the IT infrastructure will support eLearning, document best practices, and expand the use of eLearning technologies.

The Competency Management Team has been involved in numerous efforts. It has examined issues and identified policies and practices to support the DON. Teaming has been ongoing with a broad range of stakeholders that spanned the spectrum of Marine Corps, Navy claimants, and SECNAV organizations. The team has also sought input from a myriad of sources across the public and private sector, and was able to design a process for workforce planning based on the a model developed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). This process starts with setting strategic direction, identifying the supply and demand of workforce requirements, developing a plan to accomplish specific goals, and ending with establishing a systematic approach for monitoring and evaluation.

To support its goals and ensure that best practices reach the field, the Competency Management Team developed a comprehensive set of tools, reference materials and guidance that is helpful in managing the IM/IT and KM workforce. Actions and products to date include: (1) Creating the DON IM/IT Workforce Strategic Plan; (2) Performing strategic workforce planning for the military and civilian workforces, looking ahead to FY05 to estimate the demand for workers and the expected supply available to fill those requirements; (3) Refining DON CIO guidance on inherently governmental and non-inherently governmental functions; (4) Developing guidance for Continuous Learning, to help ensure the workforce stays current with rapidly evolving changes in IM, IT, and KM; (5) Creating the DON Civilian Career Path Guide (CPG) for the Management of Technology, Information and Knowledge; and (6) Developing an automated, interactive Career Planning Tool. Many of these products can be found on the Workforce CD-ROM. The DON Workforce CD and Career Planning Tool are discussed in the text box following this article.

Future Plans

The Competency Management Team will continue to shape the future IM/IT/KM workforce, focusing on the requirements generated through a changing technology base. Competencies will change with the emergence of new technology and roles. As we continue to insert new technology and develop new organizational structures, demand will drive additional requirements for specific competencies. These factors affect the kind of people we need.

Workforce planning will continue to be an area of interest as we seek to keep our workforce current. Many changes are needed, some internal to the DON, some requiring changes to regulations from higher authority. But regardless of the change, the overall goal must remain the same: to develop an approach that will result in a highly-qualified workforce, operating in an environment that motivates them to achieve mission objectives. The DON CIO is ready to build partnerships across the enterprise to ensure the DON has the leadership commitment, the resources and the initiatives to develop the IM/IT workforce.

With our clear vision and direction, commitment from leadership, and a willingness to invest in our people, we can shape our workforce to meet today's and tomorrow's challenges.

Sandra J. Smith is the DON CIO Competency Management Team Leader.

THE DON Workforce CD

The Workforce CD includes many of the current products from the Competency Team.

The DON IM/IT Workforce Strategic Plan presents the roadmap for a systematic approach to IM/IT workforce planning in the DON, identifying goals and objectives to ensure we have "the right people, with the right skills, in the right jobs, at the right times." The official endorsement by the critical stakeholders in Human Resources and in IM/IT demonstrates the partnership needed to achieve the goals and recommended changes.

The DON Guidance on Inherently Governmental IM/IT Functions defines IM/IT functions and the type of work performed by government and contractor personnel. By categorizing work, we can make strategic and tactical decisions about the workforce. The resulting "Inherently Governmental Guidance" helps organizations as the enterprise takes steps to comply with the Federal Activities and Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act by annually marking jobs that would be considered for outsourcing, and by planning A-76 studies to determine if the functions those jobs represented should be outsourced. The guidance helps ensure the DON retains critical leadership and oversight capabilities while releasing to private industry the workload that would fiscally benefit from economies of scale.

The DON Civilian Career Planning Guide (CPG) focuses on the individual. It is a two-volume paper-based guide published by the DON CIO in March 2001. Overall, the CPG describes a career development process used by an employee and his supervisor or mentor to build a Career Progression Plan (CPP) for gaining excellence in a current job, or qualifying for a future job. The CPG defines five career areas for the IM/IT/KM workforce, documenting an extremely broad spectrum of work — from research and development, to acquisition, to operations and maintenance — and focuses on the inherently governmental functions necessary to lead and oversee this work. It also includes original thinking in KM, defining the job roles of KM practitioners and listing the competencies that drive excellence. In a holistic approach to human capital, the Guide cites "Career Foundational" (or professional) competencies that complement technical (or functional) expertise in the top-quality DON employee. These competencies are based on those promoted under the DON Civilian Leadership Development Program.

The Continuous Learning Guidance highlights the DON concept of the "learning organization." This concept was fundamental to the thinking that drove the design of the DON CIO organization. For the IM/IT/KM workforce, methodologies and tools change continuously. Workforce members face a continuous challenge to remain current in their disciplines, so they must become lifelong learners to maintain their currency. To carry the learning theme into the workforce, the Guidance recommends 80 annual hours of professional update for all civilian and military IM/IT core workforce professionals to augment the competencies established in their career fields and required for specific assignments. Continuous learning is not restricted to traditional training and education modalities, but includes conferences, mentoring situations, rotational or on the job skill development assignments and other learning opportunities.

The Gap Analyses and "Call for Action" Strategies. Teams were sponsored to specifically examine the current and future military and civilian workforces, IM/IT competencies, the current and future IM/IT — and the gap that is projected for the future — through year 2005 — between the workforce and the workload. By examining the gaps, we can identify strategies that could be implemented now, to help shape the workforce to meet future requirements. These studies were proofs of concept that demonstrated the power of workforce planning; the aim was to use this process as a tool to aid in making future decisions.

The Career Planning Tool

The Career Planning Tool (CPT) is also included on the Workforce CD; however, it is highlighted here as a specific interactive product available now, and representative of the types of tools the Competency Team is developing and updating for the benefit of the workforce.

The CPT was developed to provide a resource to facilitate DON civilian IM/IT employees to manage their careers. It is an interactive database application based on the Career Path Guide (CPG) for the Management of Technology, Information and Knowledge. The CPT enables individuals to assess their own proficiency in functional and professional competencies. The functional competencies are related to specific job functions and are grouped into the five broad career areas. In addition to the functional competencies, the user can also self-assess proficiency in a set of professional, or "Career Foundational Competencies." These competencies, based on qualifications identified by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Office of Personnel Management, are intended for all DON civilians, regardless of job function.

The tool allows users to determine where gaps exist in terms of competency proficiency, and enables them to design a tailored development strategy to help achieve proficiency in those competencies. Once these steps are complete, the CPT is then used to develop a Career Progression Plan (CPP) that contains four parts: Career Development Data, a Needs Analysis, a Development Strategy, and Development History. The tool, based on the user’s self-assessment of competencies, automatically generates most of the CPP, which can be printed out and shared with or approved by the individual’s supervisor or mentor.

The CPT is most effectively used in conjunction with the DON CPG for the Management of Technology, Information and Knowledge. The CPG is a two-volume set. The first volume contains detailed information about the career development process and should be read by all users of the CPT. Volume II of the CPG has been largely replaced by the CPT.

DON CIO continues to improve the tool with periodic upgrades. The next revision will expand the five functional areas for the new occupational series: Information Technology Management, GS-2210 that includes 10 parenthetical titles used in addition to the basic title to identify specialty areas and selective qualifications. These include: Policy and Planning, Security, Systems Analysis, Applications Software, Operating Systems, Network Services, Data Management, Internet, Systems Administration, and Customer Support. While these competencies are already included in the tool, they will be provided with a more explicit view.

"There has been a common awakening across the Federal Government to the importance of people. Greater effort has been focused on recognizing their worth and integrating their management into organizational strategy."

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