New tools ahead for DOD’s global grid

USAID automates HR services

The U.S. Agency for International Development, which must manage agency staff stationed all over the globe, has automated common human resource processes, freeing up USAID HR employees to address more complex issues.

Until a few years ago, tasks like assigning Foreign Service officers to their posts was done via email and paper, according to Bob Leavitt, chief human capital officer at USAID.

"Having the most basic technologies was a critical requirement for us to mitigate liabilities and financial risk due to the errors that we were generating," Leavitt said on the sidelines of the Presidential Rank Awards Leadership Summit. "We had to reprocess how we designed our workflows and our processes to streamline them as much as we could."

Now, basic processes -- like an employee changing her name after getting married -- can be completed via an app that functions like Turbo Tax, he said. "Ninety-five percent of [tasks like that] are absolutely automated until it gets to the HR professional that oversees everything, who approves or disapproves it."

Even though USAID has over 10,000 employees, Leavitt said this automation was critical as the agency faced issues related to understaffing.

"Our challenge was that we didn't have an opportunity to wait for a shared service or complete … 100% off the shelf," he said. "We needed a new system now because our risks and liabilities were getting too high. We didn't have the bodies to do these basic functions. But now the staff that we have on board are doing higher value type of work than some of the very, very basic transactions of moving a data point from this system to that system."

The technology has proved so successful that it has drawn the attention of  other agencies, according to Leavitt.

The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management "have looked at it quite favorably, what we're building," he said. "Before, we had such a weak track record of reforming ourselves, but now our next step is to work more with the five or so departments and agencies that are really toying with robotic process automation and applying that to automate more HR transactions."

This article was first posted on FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a former staff writer and associate editor at FCW.

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