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6 Tools to Aid State DOTs in Responding to Workforce Challenges 1.2 Study Context State DOTs face ongoing and evolving challenges of doing the job that the public expects of them. Many forces, including legislative requirements, reduced financial capacity, and technology advances are requiring DOTs to re-examine their mission and role. Changes in mission and role have important implications for workforce requirements. For example, DOTs that are pursuing flatter organizational structures that push greater responsibility to field offices require a larger pool of field personnel with technical, leadership, and customer service skills, as well as mechanisms at the central office to effectively provide management and support to the field. DOTs that are moving toward greater outsourcing of maintenance and design require stronger contract develop- ment, negotiation, and oversight capabilities. DOTs that are aggressively pursuing operational improvements to make best use of available capacity need staff that can plan for and manage increas- ingly sophisticated technology. They also require shifts in organizational culture given the traditional plan-design-build orientation of the DOT. Increased emphasis on partnerships across state, regional and local agencies means that DOTs need staff with top-notch negotiation and communication skills and the ability to work effectively in the networked environment these partnerships require. At the same time as workforce requirements are shifting, economic upheaval is causing major changes in the size and composition of the DOT workforce. Historically DOT employees stayed with the organization for their entire careers. This is not likely to be the case for the 21st century. DOTs will face stiffer competition from the private and academic sectors while simultaneously being confronted with a shrinking pool of qualified transportation professionals. Interest in engineering programs at colleges and universities has continued to decline, which means the historical feeder pipeline into DOTs has been declining. In a study conducted by Karen Philbrick and Patrick Sherry of the University of Denver in 2004, only 18% of college students said they would consider transportation careers. When students were given a list of 14 careers to choose from, only 2.6% expressed interest in transportation. 1.2.1 Resources for Success To be successful, DOTs must have a broad set of resources to assess, diagnose, and address workforce issues. These resources must be helpful at both strategic and operational levels. In addition, the organizational infrastructure for implementation and use of these resources must be explicitly planned for and provided. Strategic Resources. DOT management need guidance on how to assemble a holistic approach to building the workforce they need to fulfill their mission--getting the right people in the right jobs at the right time, while simultaneously, if required, letting go of the right people without negatively affecting services or mission. Resources are needed to develop and use performance metrics to track progress, pinpoint areas for improvement, and support benchmarking against peer agencies; for strategic assessment of current and likely future gaps in the workforce (skills, experience, diversity); and for review of current policies, programs, and procedures that impact workforce composition and capabilities. Once the gaps are identified, easy access to successful models utilized in other organizations can be invaluable for developing an effective plan of action. Operational Resources. At the operational level, a need exists for practical resources for both information gathering and program implementation. Information gathering tools include those for tracking key statistics from human resources systems on recruitment and retention, as well as specialized survey instruments for competency assessment, exit interviews, employee satisfaction monitoring, and applicant debriefs on the recruiting process. Implementation resources span a wide range of functions--recruitment, employee performance reviews, supervisor training, employee orientation, in-service training, employee mentoring, and career counseling, benefits program design, incentive and advancement programs, succession planning, and knowledge management.

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Introduction 7 Organizational Models for Tool Application. In addition to providing a toolkit to access available resources, a mechanism is needed to explicitly identify the audience(s) within the DOT for each resource and to suggest realistic approaches for how they would be applied. One issue to be addressed is that relatively few DOTs have involved their human resources functions at the strategic level of decision making. The human resources function is often focused on adminis- trative and compliance-related tasks. This may be a key factor limiting DOTs' potential to develop and implement truly effective workforce strategies that have strong linkages with operational program components. Integrating human resources functions into strategic decision making is particularly critical during reductions in force, when ensuring optimal results from a stream- lined organization is crucial. Therefore, resources were identified and documented that provide organizational models involving human resources as a more strategic player in the DOT, and describe kinds of human resources competencies and internal partnerships that are required to make these models successful. 1.2.2 Targeting Needs While some common trends impact workforce concerns across the entire DOT (outsourcing, downsizing, decentralizing, retirements, turnover, and mismatch of skills to needs), the research team believes the impact of the toolkit is maximized by designing it to address the needs and responsibilities of specific users within the DOT. Therefore, they began the project by defining audiences or user classes for the toolkit and identifying both the key concerns of each class and the activities that are within their purview to effect change. For the prototype included with this report, the perspectives of top agency executives (CEOs), senior managers (division chiefs and district administrators), human resources managers, and line managers/workgroup supervisors were considered. The next step involved matching available resources to needs and target audiences. There is a diverse set of resources--documented methodologies or models, survey instruments, case studies, policies and procedures, organizational models, and software--that may be helpful to DOTs seeking to address workforce challenges. The team identified the key challenges of each class and defined these as workforce needs. The need types currently included in the Workforce Toolkit are strategic planning, organizational development, human resources information systems, retention, compensation and benefits, downsizing/reductions in force, retirement, workforce planning and development, organizational change, leadership development, human resources planning, orga- nizational performance, human resources function, employee conflict, competencies, recruitment, succession planning, outsourcing/contract management, training and development, knowledge management, and performance management. These needs are defined in section 2.3.1. The Workforce Toolkit links these needs to the relevant audience and to the appropriate resources. This approach reinforces a holistic approach to addressing workforce issues while pro- viding an easily understood topical organization of the resources. 1.2.3 Recent Research A wide body of research was used to develop this tool. Listed below are the key NCHRP sources reviewed for this project. NCHRP Project 20-24(40), "Analysis and Benchmarking of State DOT Recruitment and Hiring Practices." NCHRP Project 20-24(48), "Analysis and Benchmarking of State DOT Human Resource Activities." NCHRP Project 20-24(50), "In-Service Training Needs for State DOTs." TRB Special Report 275: The Workforce Challenge.