USAID Developing Tools to Improve Staff Management

USAID workers deliver supplies in Haiti. Photo by: Gina Jackson / USAID

In a bid to effectively manage and grow its workforce domestically and abroad, the U.S. Agency for International Development is formulating a Tactical Staffing Implementation Plan that will determine how the agency will “incrementally move” to meet its staffing requirements.

The plan will help to better link USAID’s overseas staffing requirements to the State Department’s biennial mission categorization exercise.

The announcement is in response to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which notes that the aid agency has not consistently developed and shared its plan for the placement of its overseas staff with the State Department nor does it have a “reliable and comprehensive” system to record the number, location, and occupation of its staff. It is also difficult to ensure that USAID missions “have the staff available with the necessary skills when needed,” given an uncertain environment where missions operate, and with shifting program priorities and funding, GAO adds.

USAID put together a five-year workforce plan for fiscal years 2009 through 2013 but GAO said the plan “lacks several key elements … critical to strategic workforce planning.”

“[I]t is not comprehensive in its analysis of workforce and competency gaps and the staffing levels that the agency requires to meet its program needs and goals,” GAO said of the USAID plan, which does not cover U.S. and foreign national personal services contractors who comprise the majority of USAID’s workforce.

To bolster the management of the entire USAID workforce, GAO in its report titled “USAID Needs to Improve Its Strategic Planning to Address Current and Future Workforce Needs” recommends that the agency:

- develop a comprehensive workforce plan that takes into account USAID’s total workforce including nondirect-hire staff, and provides an analysis of overall workforce and competency gaps as well as measures to address these gaps.

- develop a documented implementation plan with time frames for its workforce planning model initiative to help ensure that staffing projections are reasonable and missions are informed of how the model will affect their workforce planning.

- develop a comprehensive implementation plan for USAID’s hiring of new Foreign Service officers, which should specify the agency’s overall hiring goals and targets for specific occupational categories, and the process for determining the number, location and time frames for additional newly hired trainee staff assigned to each overseas mission.

- develop a workforce data system to consistently collect, maintain, and analyze sufficiently reliable and up-to-date data on direct and nondirect hire staff levels, including institutional support contractors.

Concurring with the findings of GAO’s report, USAID said it is also now “rolling out” an automated Competency Management System, including an electronic Individual Development Plan that will link the competency assessment tool to USAID’s training catalog. This will allow for supervisor and employee conversations about career development. USAID is looking at commencing the complete operations of the Competency Management System by fiscal 2013.

The aid agency also recognizes the need to develop a strong human resources information system to create a platform for workforce analyses, hiring and deployment, and budget formulation. But this will take several years to complete, according to USAID. In the short run, USAID is enhancing the reliability and inter-operability of three existing systems used to track workforce data, including web-Pass, NFC and webTA.

About the author

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    Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.