Talent search

With the clock ticking on a wave of retirements, Virginia county turns to talent management software

Fairfax County, Va., like organizations at every level of government, is concerned about an impending labor shortage resulting from a wave of upcoming retirements and regular employee turnover. To help it prepare, the county plans to implement a new talent management software solution from Plateau Systems in mid-September.

'In this county, we have a lot of aging baby boomers,' said a Fairfax County government representative, who asked not to be identified, 'so we had to figure out a way to go through the database of all our employees and capture information about who is eligible to retire in the next few years and how critical those positions are. Then we had to determine how we would start planning ahead' for the impending vacancies.

The representative said succession planning is a challenge because of the relatively large size of the organization.

Fairfax County first initiated a pilot project using manual spreadsheets. But the spreadsheets proved to be too labor-intensive, so the county began looking for a way to streamline the process.

Talent management software, which can help officials assess the talent pool across the organization, appears to be the answer, officials said.

Managers will use the software to identify what the county calls key positions ' those that will soon become vacant because of retirements ' and evaluate the required qualifications for those positions. They also will use it to evaluate the qualifications of the applicants.

The software can then create reports that managers will use to analyze the gaps between the applicants' qualifications and the job requirements.

Managers will use the gathered information to create training and development plans for both individuals and departments, in addition to tailored recruitment plans for attracting potential employees with the necessary qualifications.
'If we want an assistant director to fill the position of a retiring director, we will be able to determine how much more training the person needs in order to meet the qualifications,' the county representative said. 'We can evaluate the areas the person would need to focus on.'

To determine employee competencies, the county will ask employees to complete a survey. 'We can determine from the surveys how many people are ready' to move into higher positions, the representative said.

The county has developed a core set of job competencies that will apply across the organization, but it will allow individual agencies to add competencies specific to those agencies. 'The software allows you to tailor the system somewhat,' the representative said.

The county's initial goal once the software is implemented will be to identify and begin plans to fill positions held by employees who plan to retire in the near future. Seven to eight agencies in the county will participate initially, and those agencies will help develop some of the training programs the county will use to teach managers how to use the system. The agencies also will provide feedback about ways to make the system easier to use.

Fairfax County's long-term goal is for all employees to be able to use the system to chart their career paths. The county envisions employees conducting self-assessments and developing their own training plans to become qualified for promotions.

What's more, employees will also be able to determine whether they even want a particular job once they see the responsibilities involved. That information will be saved in the system so that when managers scan the available talent pool, they will know which empoyees aren't interested in a particular position.

So far, the county has completed the system configuration documents and conducted some workshops. One of the next steps will be to export data from the county's current human resources system to Plateau.

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