For years, agencies have been talking about shifting the focus of HR Specialists from low-value to high-value work, or in other words shifting from transactional to transformational. The reality is not much has changed. There are a variety of factors preventing the change, but HR is often more focused on mission-based workforce planning than their own ‘back office’ workforce planning. As a result, inertia has set in and HR operations continue substantially unchanged.

The US Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) reported in May 2020 that there continues to be a heavy reliance on legacy practices such as hiring experienced specialists from other agencies instead of growing or developing staff. This often has negative impact on employee retention as the lower graded HR Specialists see ‘outsiders’ being brought in to fill the senior positions. As a result, corporate knowledge leaves the agency and rather than innovating policies and processes, the remaining HR workforce has to work too hard just to maintain status quo service. In addition, the MSPB found many agencies provide minimal training opportunities and those that are provided emphasized policies, rules and software operation over fundamental principles and foundational skills. This does not allow a conscious or sustainable workforce planning strategy. To move towards transformation, agencies should create recruitment, assessment, and development strategies to enable the HR workforce of the future.

Another driver of redefining and expanding (i.e. modernizing) the HR workforce is to thoughtfully implement technology to take the load on low-value activities. Technologies such as ServiceNow HR Service Delivery (HRSD) can easily be configured to deliver employee and manager self-service as well as take on a significant amount of the Tier 0/1 inquiries through the use of knowledge articles and virtual agents.

Once the HR Leadership has developed a modern and comprehensive HR Workforce Plan and has implemented enabling technology, only one hurdle remains. The CHCO has to convince agency leadership in invest in the transition of HR from transactional to transformational.