2022 Workforce Peer Exchange

National Operations Center of Excellence

On May 24 and 26, NOCoE held a virtual Peer Exchange on Workforce Development. The Peer Exchange followed the Center’s second Workforce Development Summit that took place in September 2021. The Summit engaged TSMO thought leaders to identify the workforce challenges and needs of the future and to consider how best the Center continue to focus on workforce matters given its importance as one of three NOCoE Strategic Goals. The full summit proceedings are available here.

The Summit incorporated a series of presentations and, through breakouts, priority setting to help map the Center’s future work in this area. The Peer Exchange took a different approach and created multiple opportunities for interaction among its attendees to identify and share emerging and best practices on a range of workforce matters.

Over seventy participants involved in one or both days provided a rich array of practices on recruitment, retention, training, and diversity. These contributions are being captured, codified, and expanded on to share with the entire TSMO community through NOCoE’s website and future services such as its webinar and case study series.

Workforce Development Learnings

Over the course of two days in its virtual format, attendees circulated through four breakouts concentrating on recruitment, retention, training, and diversity. Some attendees submitted written success stories prior to the Peer Exchange for reference during the breakouts. The Michigan DOT and AZTech in greater Phoenix made plenary presentations on their initiatives. And nearly all who participated in the individual breakouts shared some of their workforce practices—informal and formal—with their co-attendees.

These sharing experiences yielded two results: 1) lessons that attendees could take back to their own organizations to adopt and/or adapt; and 2) occasional co-creation of new ideas within the breakout itself as attendees reacted and reflected on their colleagues’ contributions. In some cases, shared practices will merit a case study in the format that NOCoE has become known for. And in several more, follow-up with the contributors will yield more details to offer interested agencies enough to work with to adapt or adopt them for their own purposes.

Another outcome of the Peer Exchange was the importance of partnership between TSMO and Human Resources professionals, both of whom were well represented. NOCoE will connect with AASHTO’s Human Resources Committee to consider potential collaboration on this topic going forward.

The above video captures examples from each of the four breakout topics representing the rich array of practices that may have value elsewhere in the TSMO community. The learnings are also captured by each topic below.

Recruitment

Success Stories

Professionals

  • Graduate rotational programs
  • Strong university partnerships for co-ops/interns
  • Flexibility with remote work (and out-of-state/out-of-country allowances)
  • Mentoring
  • Employee recruiting campaigns/recruiting from within
  • Pet insurance

Paraprofessionals

  • Military, law enforcement, emergency management pipelines
  • Standardizing/formalizing training programs and focusing on skills demonstration
  • Apprenticeship programs and ‘growing your own’ talent

Challenges

Professionals

  • Departments becoming ‘top heavy’ or ‘bottom heavy’
  • Salaries
  • Awareness

Paraprofessionals

  • Finding candidate pools
  • Military pipelines
  • Pay scales

Ideas

  • Importance of consistency; including TSMO in onboarding
  • Value-based metrics for hiring to match culture
  • Quality of life
  • Diversity of projects and opportunities within DOT
  • Benefits and stability (particularly for mid-late career transitions)
  • Leveraging remote work options (particularly as Amazon, Google, etc. are requiring return to office)

Retention

Success Stories

  • Flexible schedule and working from home (no need to live close to official reporting location)
  • Compensation strategies
  • Improved performance review process to be more efficient – outcomes inform merit pay increases, promotions, performance improvement plans
  • Mentoring and opportunity to work on different roles
  • Tours to TMCs and organization tours to keep new employees engaged
  • Being the "owner" and "making a difference"
  • Tuition remission (employee and dependents)

Challenges

  • Competition
  • Pay rates
  • Equitable pay
  • Ceiling for technical employees that don’t want to be a manager
  • Not having adequate resources
  • Retention of younger professionals is an issue
  • Older generations: seeking retirement earlier
  • The layers of approval
  • Lack of transparency
  • Not feeling part of a team
  • Lack of personal connection
  • Excessive workload
  • Lack of engagement
  • Lack of career path or growth opportunities
  • People want to know their work is valued

Ideas

  • Compensation strategies
  • Succession planning
  • Mentoring
  • How to create a positive culture
  • More communication between administrative office and technical staff
  • Employees want to be heard
  • What are the best channels for HR to advertise jobs?
  • Close coordination between TSMO and HR

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Success Stories

  • Include DEI in agency strategic planning – make DEI a core value
  • Organizational commitment in new positions focused on DEI – e.g. Chief Culture, Equity and Inclusion Officer
  • Internship program for underrepresented groups
  • High school summer camps for diverse students
  • Formal hiring equity guidelines
  • Employee newsletter includes profiles on women, minority, and other employees
  • Celebrate and highlight cultural events
  • Collecting data on recruitment and retention across diverse groups
  • 504(e) federal workforce development funding used for DEI training

Challenges

  • Remote work can make inclusion more difficult
  • Historically less diverse states or regions make it difficult to attract diversity
  • Lack of understanding of what DEI means and why it is important
  • Barriers and inherent biases in hiring practice
  • Need data to analyze and assess agency inequities – gender, race, age, other
  • Employee representation groups/unions that negotiate salaries add complexity to salary and benefit equity discussions

Ideas

  • Build talking points and business case for the benefits of diversity
  • Review hiring practices for implicit biases (blind auditions, skills-based hiring)
  • Establish diverse hiring panels
  • Recruit from underserved or underrepresented populations
  • Review HR policies for implicit bias – pay, benefits, hiring, etc.
  • It is not just about the numbers, we must support the success of all employees
  • Leadership training and development for underrepresented employee groups

Training

Success Stories

  • Partnerships with universities
  • Support for employees to pursue certifications
  • Use 504(e) funds to support training and workforce development activities
  • Development of Operations Academy training
  • High School Internship Program
  • Certified Public Manager (CPM) certification and other leadership training leads to upward mobility
  • On-demand online training for data analyst technicians
  • Fiber optics training, approved for certification by the Fiber Optics Association and US Dept. of Labor
  • Autonomous cybersecurity and network classes
  • Expansion of training and certification of Safety Service Patrol program
  • Training program for TMC operators
  • ITS Technician Training Program

Challenges

  • Need to define how transportation agencies offer reimbursement for pursuit of next degree and how much time employees need to stay at the organization before having to repay the investment
  • Retirements and the growing compensation gap seem to be the two most significant issues related to sustaining public sector workforce
  • Need to establish career paths for all positions: allow existing employees to understand how they can advance through the organization
  • Very limited awareness of TSMO shared across most transportation agencies

Ideas

  • Growth in apprenticeships including at professional levels
  • Systematically capture Institutional knowledge as people retire
  • TMC Pooled Fund Study has several upcoming workforce related projects starting
  • Connect with Young Professionals of Transportation (YPT) local chapters to enhance formal and informal mentoring
  • Increased academic connections at 2-year, 4-year and advanced degree levels
  • Connect with LTAPs to increase National Highway Institute Training
  • Leverage FHWA Resource Centers for technical transfer

Organizational Capability Element

  • Education, Training & Professional Activities
  • Organizational Structure/Staffing
  • Recruitment and Retention
  • Staff Development

Event Type

  • Workshop

Content Type

  • State-of-the Practice

Publishing Organization

  • NOCoE

Objective

  • Learning

Document Downloads

Video

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Issue Date
June 23rd, 2022
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