Human Capital Management:

FAA's Reform Effort Requires a More Strategic Approach

GAO-03-156: Published: Feb 3, 2003. Publicly Released: Feb 3, 2003.

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In 1996, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) undertook a human capital reform effort under one of the most flexible human capital management environments in the federal government, including broad exemptions from title 5 laws governing federal civilian personnel management. GAO was asked (1) to examine the changes FAA initiated in its reform effort, including whether they required an exemption from title 5 and their implementation status; (2) determine the effects of the reform effort according to available data and the views of FAA officials, managers, and employees; and (3) assess the extent to which FAA's reform effort incorporated elements that are important to effective human capital management.

In 1996, FAA initiated human capital reform initiatives in three broad areas, some of which required exemption from title 5, and some of which have been fully implemented. FAA has not yet completed implementation of some key initiatives. For example, FAA's new compensation system remains unimplemented for about one-quarter of the agency's workforce--those staff whose unions have not reached agreements with FAA. FAA's need to implement initiatives among a workforce with a wide range of skills and to negotiate changes with multiple unions were among factors that affected the pace and extent of reform implementation. FAA had little data with which to assess the effects of its reform effort. While FAA human capital officials cited positive effects of FAA's reform effort, the views of managers and employees GAO interviewed were generally less positive. FAA's lack of empirical data on the effects of its human capital initiatives is one indication that it has not fully incorporated elements that are important to effective human capital management into its overall reform effort. These elements include data collection and analysis, performance goals and measures, and linkage of reform goals to program goals. FAA human resource management officials said that the agency should have spent more time to develop baseline data and performance measures before implementing the broad range of reforms but that establishing these elements was a complex and difficult task. FAA has also not gone far enough to establish linkage between reform goals and overall program goals of the organization. GAO found that the lack of these elements has been pointed out repeatedly in evaluations of FAA's human capital reform effort, but FAA has not developed specific steps and time frames by which these elements will be established and used for evaluation. Incorporation of these elements could also help FAA build accountability into its human capital management.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA implemented five broad classes of human capital performance measures: (1) Strategic Business Measures; (2) Employee Attitude and Customer Satisfaction Measures; (3) Efficiency Measures; (4) Quality and Effectiveness Indicators; and (5) Cost and Financial Measures. These broad classes of performance measures include defined metrics that allow for quantitative analyses over time, including survey data. FAA human capital practices were audited in FY 2005 by the Office of Personnel Management, which found that FAA's Personnel Management System operated effectively and in compliance with applicable laws.

    Recommendation: In order to acquire the information needed to make more informed strategic human capital decisions and better ensure that FAA's personnel reforms achieve their intended results in a timely fashion, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to develop empirical data and establish specific, measurable, time-based goals and performance measures related to these goals; and use them to evaluate the effects of the reforms on the agency's human capital management, programs, and mission so that the agency can make any needed improvements. Developing these evaluation tools is particularly urgent for those initiatives, such as FAA's new compensation system for air traffic employees, for which possible negative effects have been raised by employees; and FAA's new performance management system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA's Flight Plan provides overall direction and measurable goals for FAA from FY 2005-FY 2009, aligning with the 2005-2009 DOT Strategic Plan. FAA also aligns its Flight Plan with Business Plans that articulate specific goal-related initiatives and performance targets for each fiscal year. The FY 2004/2005 AHR (human capital) Business Plan links with the goals, metrics and initiatives that FAA has in place to meet its Flight Plan goals. The Flight Plan specifies three FAA-wide targets and 13 strategic human capital initiatives, all addressed in the AHR Business Plan, aligned with FAA's Organizational Excellence goal. These goals include directly relating 100% of all FAA employee performance plans to FAA's strategic goals.

    Recommendation: In order to acquire the information needed to make more informed strategic human capital decisions and better ensure that FAA's personnel reforms achieve their intended results in a timely fashion, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to define and describe explicit linkages between human capital management reform initiatives and program goals of the organization.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In developing its Flight Plan, FAA aligned its human capital strategy to the human capital business plan, and used data from human capital performance measures to assess human capital strategies and performance objectives. FAA analyzes these data on an ongoing basis to support DOT's Human Capital Plan. FAA's human capital efforts received a "green" status rating for strategic management of human capital from OMB in FY 2004.

    Recommendation: In order to acquire the information needed to make more informed strategic human capital decisions and better ensure that FAA's personnel reforms achieve their intended results in a timely fashion, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to establish time frames by which data will be collected and analyzed and by which goals, performance measures, and explicit linkage will be established and used to evaluate the success of the reform initiatives and hold agency leadership accountable for the results of its human capital management efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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