New HR system eyed for DHS employees

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a conglomeration of 177,000 employees from 22 federal agencies, this week began designing a new personnel system to replace dozens of disparate systems that now exist throughout the new agency.

In a memo sent to DHS employees on Tuesday, Janet Hale, undersecretary for management at the agency, said a team of representatives from DHS, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and major unions will help create the new human resources management system. In addition, a Web site will be set up to allow employees to submit suggestions on the system’s design.

“We want this process to be very inclusive, and we will seek out and listen to DHS employees and managers, as well as experts both inside and outside of government,” wrote Hale. The team will identify options to present to Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and the director of OPM in the fall of 2003, with implementation slated to begin next year.

“Changes to human resources systems are not something any of us take lightly,” Hale wrote. “Personnel systems created decades ago have not kept pace with the rate of change, have become overly complex and simply were not created with our unique missions in mind,” she said. “To continue to be successful, we must be able to attract, motivate, reward and train people of the very highest calibre in an environment that is both more challenging and more competitive.”

The new system was called for in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which created the new department. The goal, according to the department, is to create a 21st century personnel system that’s flexible and contemporary while preserving basic civil-service principles and the merit system.

The new personnel system is supposed to allow the agency to:

– Seek out and hire the best employees possible.

– Provide pay based on individual merit and value to the organization.

– Create a system that’s fair and quantifies the value of work to the department.

– Allow a cooperative, positive work environment that benefits from employee input.

– Link individual performance to organization goals.

The design team will conduct outreach meeting in cities with the largest concentration of DHS employees, including New York, Miami, Detroit, El Paso, Atlanta, Seattle and Salt Lake City. To ensure coordination with rural areas, the team will either bring employees into the major cities or conduct smaller sessions locally.