Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation:

A More Strategic Approach Could Improve Human Capital Management

GAO-08-624: Published: Jun 12, 2008. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 2008.

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The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) employs over 800 federal employees and uses some 1,500 private sector employees to insure the pensions of millions of private sector workers and retirees in certain employer-sponsored pension plans. In recent years, PBGC's projected financial liabilities and workloads have increased greatly due to a large number of pension plan terminations. Given this, it is important that PBGC remain well positioned to fulfill its promise to those retirees who depend on it. GAO was asked to report on (1) PBGC's recent experience in hiring and retaining key staff and how it compares to other federal agencies and (2) the actions PBGC has taken to strategically hire and retain key staff and what additional steps, if any, can be taken. To do this, we analyzed PBGC's workforce by using the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) Central Personnel Data File to identify data and compared those data to data from other federal agencies. We also interviewed officials from selected agencies, including PBGC, OPM, and the Department of Labor.

From fiscal years2000to 2007, PBGC was generally able to hire staff in its key occupations--such as accountants, actuaries, and attorneys--and retain them at rates similar to those of the rest of the federal government. However, PBGC has had some difficulty with hiring and retaining staff for specific occupations and positions, including executives and senior financial analysts. Despite the general ability to hire and retain key staff, data also suggest that PBGC may be faced with workforce challenges; these include managing a workforce with relatively few years of federal experience, the prospect of nearly one-quarter of its key staff retiring within the next 4 years, and difficulty hiring and retaining key staff in the future due to PBGC's existing compensation structure, which offers salaries lower than some federal agencies that employ similar staff, such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. While PBGC is making progress in its human capital management approachby taking steps to improve its human capital planning and practices--such as drafting a succession management plan--the corporation lacks a formal, comprehensive human capital plan that integrates several critical components such as workforce planning. Also, even though it collects workforce data, PBGC has not routinely and systematically targeted and analyzed all necessary workforce data--such as attrition rates, occupational skills mix, and trends--to understand its current and future workforce needs. Instead, officials stated that they generally reacted to management personnel requests, and developed human capital data as needed. In addition to limited planning and data analysis, PBGC has not fully explored all available compensation options under its existing statutory authority, even though officials say and data suggest that the corporation's current compensation structure may limit its ability to hire and retain certain key staff.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: PBGC provided the plan to OPM in 2008. In May 2012, PBGC reported that it has been working with the Office of Personnel Management, developing and implementing PBGC's Human Capital Strategic Plan. The plan integrates workforce and succession planning components to help manage PBGC's workforce.

    Recommendation: To improve PBGC's human capital management structure, PBGC's Director should instruct PBGC's Chief Management Officer to integrate formal workforce and succession planning components as part of the corporation's efforts in developing a formal strategic planning approach to managing its workforce.

    Agency Affected: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to PBGC, the agency is working with the Office of Personnel Management to implement PBGC's Human Capital Strategic Plan - 2010-2014. PBGC provided the plan to OPM in 2008. The plan identifies the skills and competencies critical to PBGC's mission.

    Recommendation: To improve PBGC's human capital management structure, PBGC's Director should instruct PBGC's Chief Management Officer to systematically collect and analyze workforce data and integrate the results of such analyses into its workforce planning efforts. Such an approach could include updating PBGC's 2002 Workforce Planning Report, analyzing the reason for and the associated costs of its attrition, and identifying the types of skills and competencies critical to PBGC's mission.

    Agency Affected: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: PBGC is working with the Office of Personnel Management to implement PBGC's Human Capital Strategic Plan (PBGC provided the plan to OPM in 2008), which notes GAO's recommendation to explore and make use of compensation options. According to PBGC, they are exploring compensation options that would be appropriate and applicable within its statutory authority.

    Recommendation: To improve PBGC's human capital management structure, PBGC's Director should instruct PBGC's Chief Management Officer to fully explore with the Office of Personnel Management and Office of Management and Budget all compensation options currently available to determine and document what options are appropriate and applicable within its statutory authority. Subsequently, the corporation should make use of all applicable and appropriate options, and continuously track, document, and monitor the use of such options. Once such steps are taken, PBGC should determine the extent to which its ability to hire and retain is hindered by its compensation structure. If such efforts conclude that PBGC is in fact hindered, the corporation's board of directors and Director should work to formulate recommendations to Congress for modifying its structure.

    Agency Affected: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

 

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