Report 2015-608 Summary - May 2015
State Departments Need to Improve Their Workforce and Succession Planning Efforts to Mitigate the Risks of Increasing Retirements
Our audit of the workforce and succession planning at the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) and three other departments—California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and the California Department of Social Services (Social Services)— highlighted the following:
- Although CalHR recently evaluated the departments' workforce and succession plans, CalHR provided the departments with incomplete and inconsistent recommendations.
- CalHR has not adequately assessed and measured the effectiveness of the guidance and resources it provided to state departments to aid them in their planning efforts.
- Neither Social Services nor Caltrans have a dedicated resource who tracks the departmentwide status of initiated activities.
- Cal OES, Caltrans, and Social Services could do more to assess the departmentwide effect of their workforce and succession planning activities such as by measuring key indicators.
Results in Brief
Although it does not have express statutory authority and responsibility for overseeing such planning across state government, the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) has developed resources to aid state departments in their workforce and succession planning efforts and has taken some steps to work with departments to improve these efforts. However, CalHR can do more to help departments prepare for staff retirements and needs to better assess the value of the guidance it provides to departments. Similarly, although departments we identified in our 2009 report as needing to take additional steps in workforce and succession planning have developed plans and initiated related activities, opportunities exist for further improvements.1 Specifically, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and the California Department of Social Services (Social Services) have each initiated many activities to address the risk posed by upcoming retirements; however, the departments' planning and evaluative efforts could be strengthened to help ensure that the departments are prepared to address these risks.
CalHR Has Missed Opportunities to Strengthen High Risk Departments' Workforce and Succession Planning Efforts
CalHR recently performed an evaluation of workforce and succession plans of the five departments identified in our 2009 report as being at risk in this area to provide them with recommendations to strengthen their plans. However, we found that CalHR provided incomplete and inconsistent recommendations to the five departments in its evaluations by not always completely or consistently identifying best practices missing from the departments' plans. By conducting incomplete analyses or making inconsistent recommendations, CalHR missed opportunities to provide consistent guidance to strengthen departments' workforce and succession plans.
CalHR Cannot Demonstrate That Its Guidance Has Improved Departments' Workforce and Succession Planning
CalHR has not adequately assessed the usefulness of the guidance it offers to state departments to aid them in their planning efforts. Specifically, the evaluations CalHR receives from departments on its guidance provide limited insight into how its efforts have aided departments in developing and refining their workforce and succession plans. As an example, only 21 of the 80 departments CalHR surveyed in July 2014 responded, and the survey lacked follow-up questions to determine why some departments did not have a workforce or succession plan and why they had not reported using CalHR's tools. As a result of the limited information CalHR has obtained from state departments, it cannot adequately assess and measure the effectiveness of the assistance and resources it provided to state departments for their development and implementation of workforce and succession planning.
The Departments Have Not Determined the Effectiveness of the Activities They Have Initiated
Although all three departments we reviewed have initiated many of their workforce and succession planning efforts, neither Social Services nor Caltrans has designated a key resource, such as a unit, that is tracking the departmentwide status of initiated activities. In addition, all three departments could do more to assess the departmentwide effect of their workforce and succession planning activities, such as by measuring key indicators, including changes in retirement patterns and staff movement into leadership positions. Until the departments fully and regularly assess the departmentwide effectiveness of the activities they have initiated to meet their workforce and succession planning goals, they are limited in their ability to determine whether the activities are working as intended and adjust their strategies as necessary.
The Legislature should consider amending state law to expressly authorize CalHR to oversee efforts across state departments for workforce and succession planning, such as by monitoring the development and implementation of plans, and to compel departments to provide it with information concerning such planning. Further, the Legislature should consider requiring that CalHR update it on an annual basis, beginning in fiscal year 2016-17, on the status of the workforce and succession planning at state departments.
To ensure that CalHR's reviews of departments' workforce and succession plans are consistent and reflect all best practices it recommends on its website, CalHR should revise its evaluation process by June 2015 to include all of these best practices and other best practices it subsequently identifies.
To better enable CalHR to provide assistance to departments that is tailored to their needs, CalHR should survey state departments at least biannually to determine how the departments perceive the effectiveness of the resources and tools CalHR makes available to them.
Cal OES, Caltrans, and Social Services
Cal OES, Caltrans, and Social Services should develop a process by December 2015 to measure and evaluate their workforce and succession planning activities at least annually, and update their plans as necessary, to ensure that these activities are effective. This process should include evaluating the trends in retirements for leadership and technical positions.
Caltrans and Social Services should each identify a key resource by June 30, 2015, to track the results of workforce and succession planning activities across their respective department to ensure that certain activities are monitored on a departmentwide level.
All four departments we reviewed generally concur with our recommendations and have either started implementing them or plan to implement them.
1 We discussed workforce and succession planning in High Risk Update—Human Resources Management: A Significant Number of State Employees Are Beginning to Retire, While Certain Departments That Provide Critical State Services Lack Workforce and Succession Plans (Report 2008-605, March 2009).