International Personnel Management Association Excellence Award
2002 Award Winner — Agency Award for Excellence
Large Agency - Fairfax County Department of Human Resources
Peter J. Schroth, IPMA-CP, Director
Fairfax County is one of the northernmost counties in Virginia, comprised of nearly one million residents with a regular workforce of approximately 11,500 full time employees. Its Human Resources Department consists of 36 professional, 24 administrative, and 8 professional employees operating as a central support organization to some 47 different agencies. The organization provides a full range of human resource services and programs anchored in functional groupings each led by a team leader. The budget of the organization is $6.5 million dollars.
The county's Human Resources Department has built, nurtured and maintained an exceptional and comprehensive program focused on recruiting, retaining and rewarding its most valuable asset-its employees.
In the area of Staffing/Employment, Fairfax County HR has initiated a business redesign process with agency representation to streamline the applicant tracking and hiring process. Agencies now have the option of being trained to use a decentralized certification process or continue with the more traditional centralized process. Agencies may only advertise "open until filled" and extend offers up to and including the midpoint of the appropriate pay range without additional approval. Results include a significantly reduced processing time, greater agency ownership of the process and actual hires being made in 2-3 days from the time of employment requisition approval.
In Compensation/Workforce Analysis, Fairfax County HR has revamped the performance management and compensation systems for more than 8,000 non-public safety personnel. Historically, these employees had been part of a grade and step pay system that provided nearly 100% of employees with a 5% step increment, unless they were at a minimum of their pay range. All employees also received a cost of living analysis (COLA) that was applied to the pay ranges and the employees' base pay.
To improve Employee Relations, the HR Department fostered communication in the workforce in a variety of new ways, all of which were crucial to the successful implementation of new programs and initiatives. To support communication throughout the organization, the Department provided regular employee newsletter coverage, training classes, workshops, brown bag lunches, and embraced technology by establishing an e-mail based, guaranteed 24-hour response hotline called "HR Express." Additionally, a website for employees provides information on job vacancies, personnel policies, pay for performance, training and ongoing initiatives.
In Training/Development, the HR Department supported the County Executives' initiative to provide Leadership Training to senior and mid-level managers. To do this, they contracted with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia to provide weeklong leadership development seminars for the County's top and mid-management. Currently, the program has reached critical mass in the sense of common semantics, committed philosophies and processes, as well as visibility.
Employee Benefits and Payroll is an area where automation has taken the place of a slow, cumbersome paper time and attendance reporting system. The new automated process allows time to be entered from any location from the traditional office environment, to remote work sites by employees at every level of the organization. The new process also provides employees with access to view their own personnel and pay information, as well as the ability to make changes to certain personal information. This monumental task was completed over a two-year period using in-house resources to design the system, develop training materials, and train over 10,000 employees at varying levels of computer experience. An estimated 30-50% time saving over the paper process, along with $100,000 operational cost savings attest to the program's success.
In summary, the Fairfax County Department of Human Resources is an organization that has re-validated its vision, mission, and strategic goals in a countywide process that partners with agencies to build ownership and continuing commitment to these and other initiatives reflective of a high-performance organization.