Census seeing dividends from production based hiring model

The bureau’s human resources department trims hiring time and doubles new hires after a three-month reorganization.

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By Lauren Larson
Federal News Radio

A new approach to the hiring process is yielding success for the Census Bureau. On Agency of the Month, human resources director Vonda Bell told Federal News Radio the bureau doubled the number of new hires from last fiscal year. For 2015 Census hired 407 external new hires, up from 237 in 2014. She said it’s all thanks to a reorganization they designed themselves.

“Our goal was to increase our hiring, increase the quality of our hires and get people in the door faster,” said Bell. “We looked at the steps in the hiring process…but one thing we noticed was that the process we used, as well as the way we were organized, did not allow for a production type environment when you are looking to hire hundreds of applicants.”

For help, they turned to business process management specialists at the bureau.

 “The Census Bureau is a production based organization,” said Bell. “We thought it would be neat for the HR organization to design its program based on that same type of production model, so we created these specialized individuals and that’s made all the difference.”

Now, Bell said, the hiring process looks completely different than it did before. In the past one person from the HR department would oversee all the steps of the hiring process. With the new production-based model there are teams that specialize in each step. The vacancy announcement team posts jobs and answers questions from potential applicants. The qualifications and ratings team sizes up all the applications that come in. Finally, a closing team issues certificates and closes case files.

A quick win, said Bell, was Census’s decision to use “open continuous registers” to fill mission critical positions that seem to always have vacancies. That means job announcements stay open for an extended amount of time.

“When we had vacancies in those positions we could just easily pull from our register of candidates that we already had on file,” she said. “When you do something like that you have to make sure you do a lot of outreach. For example, when they posted an OCR for IT specialists, they reached out to trade organizations and diversity groups to encourage high-quality applicants to apply. It wasn’t just about posting it on USAjobs.com to see what we got, outreach was key. When we started to pull certificates from that Open Continuous Register managers were able to make 35 hires in less than two months.”

She said the entire process took about three months. That included mapping out the current state, identifying the areas where efficiencies could be gained, identifying the end state of the organization and implementation.

“Our goal was quite modest in the beginning. We were thinking, if we could increase our hiring by maybe ten percent that would be great,” said Bell. “To increase it by pretty much one hundred percent, it just blew our minds. We’re really excited about the result.”

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