Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring, and the District of Columbia, Committee on Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate
United States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548
September 14, 2001
The Honorable George V. Voinovich
Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring, and the District of Columbia
Committee on Governmental Affairs
United States Senate
Dear Senator Voinovich:
People are the federal government's most valuable asset in managing for results, and you have emphasized the importance of empowering and involving employees to help agencies achieve their goals and improve government operations. As our studies of private and public sector organizations have shown, high-performing organizations focus on valuing and investing in their employees-human capital-and on aligning their "people policies" to support organizational performance goals. However, strategic human capital management is a pervasive challenge in the federal government, and is one of the governmentwide areas that we have identified as high risk. 
In addition, the Administration's emphasis on workforce planning and restructuring will require federal agencies to examine how they can flatten their organizational hierarchy and improve their work processes. The Office of Management and Budget's May 8, 2001, bulletin called for agencies to use workforce planning to redistribute higher-level positions to front-line, service delivery positions that interact with citizens.  Effective workforce planning and restructuring efforts will build upon implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) to address results-oriented goals, improve performance, and assure accountability. To optimize the provision of services to citizens, it is crucial that employees understand the connection between their daily work activities and the results their organizations seek to achieve.
At your request, this report examines selected experiences five agencies have had in implementing practices that helped empower or involve front-line employees. Our objectives were to (1) identify and provide examples of the key practices agencies used to empower and involve employees, (2) identify some of the barriers that these agencies experienced and strategies they used to address them, and (3) provide examples of reported performance improvements from empowering and involving employees. As agreed, we have examined selected employee empowerment and involvement practices at specific components within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Veteran's Benefits Administration (VBA). The practices we examined at specific agency components were selected from those initiatives agency officials identified that had, in their view, successfully empowered and involved employees.
High-Risk Series: An Update (GAO-01-263, Jan. 2001).
Office of Management and Budget, Bulletin No. 01–07, Workforce Planning and Restructuring, May 8, 2001.