Regardless of election result, CHCOs need to be prepared for senior personnel changes

January 16, 2020

Highlights:

  • There is a significant change in personnel expected in 2020 regardless of the result of the election.
  • Leadership transitions are among the most difficult organizational changes to implement and have significant implications for federal agencies.
  • Human Resources in public-sector organizations is significantly less involved in the development of the business strategy and in strategic decision making than in private-sector companies.
  • The Partnership developed the CHCO Checklist to address the projected increase of leadership transitions, the complexity and criticality of their execution and the need for agency leaders to partner with their HR counterparts.

Regardless of the election result, hundreds of new appointees will be vetted, confirmed and serve over the next four years. To date, there are 228 vacancies in key positions in the current administration. 51 of these vacancies have formal nominations and are expected to be filled in the coming months. Historically, 43% of the top three positions (secretary, deputy secretary, undersecretary) turnover in the first six months of a second term administration. In today’s fast-paced, constantly changing environment, federal agencies must be prepared for leadership transitions.

Leadership transitions are among the most difficult organizational changes to implement and have significant implications for federal agencies. The effectiveness of an incoming leader’s onboarding is directly correlated with the agency’s performance, level of employee engagement and retention. Yet only 45% of federal executives stated that their onboarding got them up to speed quickly.

Talent management and workforce planning are the most pressing challenges in today’s federal environment. Of the 35 GAO high-risk areas, 16 were attributed to mission critical skill gaps. However, according to the Boston Consulting Group, Human Resources in public-sector organizations is significantly less involved in the development of the business strategy and in strategic decision making than in private-sector companies.

New checklist for CHCOs

To address the projected increase of leadership transitions, the complexity and criticality of their execution and the need for agency leaders to partner with their HR counterparts, the Partnership developed the CHCO Checklist for CHCOs (chief human capital officers) and new appointees. This guide outlines leading practices and key actions CHCOs can take to support appointees during their first weeks and position themselves as a trusted strategic advisor to help appointees implement key priorities.

Each agency’s CHCO, or equivalent is responsible for developing an effective and comprehensive onboarding process for the ongoing stream of appointees into their agency. For each appointee, CHCOs are expected to create a tailored program to accommodate their varying backgrounds and preferences, as well as unexpected conflicts that will take priority over onboarding activities.

Each leadership transition offers the opportunity for the organization to evaluate the progress made towards the agency’s strategic goals and course correct if necessary. While most onboarding programs consist of both familiarizing new leaders with their agency and the federal government, many do not prepare them to make strategic decisions on how to advance the agency’s mission. Only 41% of federal executives stated they were briefed on organizational priorities during onboarding.

CHCOs should use these early interactions to deepen their understanding of new leader’s priorities and assess the organization’s ability to execute. Based on these insights, CHCOs should determine how to utilize talent as a lever for implementation as well as align the agency’s human capital strategy to support the advancement of their agency’s mission.

The CHCO Checklist includes insights and advice from current and former CHCOs, appointees and other federal leaders. It can be found along with many other transition resources at the Center for Presidential Transition, the first permanent repository for documents and guidance on presidential transitions.