We’ve blogged before about employees ranking the Forest Service as one of the worst places in federal government to work. That discussion focused on senior leadership, which ranks 274th out of 290 agencies evaluated.
But, there is one category that ranks even lower. When it comes to “Strategic Management,” Forest Service workers score their agency 286th. Only the benighted Transportation Security Administration, the Cold War relic Voice of America, the 200 obviously disgruntled employees at the Office of Post-secondary Education, and HUD’s apparently clueless Office of Chief Information Officer rank below the Forest Service when it comes to strategic management.
So what does the survey mean by “strategic management?” The survey says it “measures the extent to which employees believe that management ensures they have the necessary skills and abilities to do their jobs, is successful at hiring new employees with the necessary skills to help the organization, and works to achieve the organizational goals with targeted personnel strategies and performance management.” In other words, strategic management is all about Human Resources.
Consider Avue. Avue is a privately-owned subsidiary of Carahsoft Technology Corporation whose gig is leasing computer-based human resource “solutions” to government agencies. In 2005, the Forest Service entered into a contract with Avue to subscribe to its “ADS Modules.” The ADS Modules wrote job announcements and position descriptions. When a Forest Service office wanted to hire a seasonal firefighter, for example, its HR staff would turn to the on-line Avue database to create the job advertisement and when the FS hired the employee, Avue would print out the worker’s duties.
FS employee antipathy towards Avue is exemplified by this comment on a firefighter website.
HALLELUJAH!!!!! The end of AVUE is coming soon!!! Lets do this RIGHT Forest Service! To be honest, if we were required to use a 1972 typewriter and mail the application on one of those Wells Fargo stagecoaches, that would be better than AVUE. Anything would be better than AVUE.
Between 2005 and 2011, the Forest Service paid Avue over $34 million for this service (2.7 MB pdf). Last year, the Forest Service decided not to renew its contract with Avue and return the work of job recruitment and position description writing to government employees.
So, just another example of Bush-era outsourcing that didn’t work so well. But, wait, there’s more.
It turns out that the Forest Service has to re-write position descriptions for its 40,000 employees because the FS doesn’t actually own any of the PDs written during the Avue era. What the Forest Service bought for its $34 million was a subscription license to use Avue output during the contract period only. Avue retains title to the position descriptions themselves and the license agreement bars the Forest Service from using any of the PD content for any purpose, including to crib from while writing its new PDs.
Even more galling is that most of the content of each PD was input originally into the Avue system by Forest Service employees using their pre-Avue PDs. The Forest Service is not allowed use of this original source data either, having forfeited its ownership when it entered the data into the Avue system.