From Hiring to Retiring: Strategies for Modernizing State Human Resources

Report #220, February 2014


The Little Hoover Commission on Thursday sent a message to the state’s leaders: the cornerstone of quality public service is a strong, innovative workforce. The reminder was in a report released by the Commission on the state’s personnel system. In 2011, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. proposed major reforms to the California civil service system through a reorganization plan. These changes included merging and streamlining personnel operations in a new department and modernizing the state hiring system so that it is more navigable and better able to help state agencies build and maintain a longterm motivated workforce.

The reorganization plan went into effect in 2012, and in November 2013, the Commission began a review of the progress of the reforms. In its report released Thursday, the Commission found that, while the physical logistics of the reorganization have been successful, the service improvements and big-picture changes that represent the plan’s promise of reinvention remain unfinished. The Commission urged the Governor, Legislature and state human resource leaders to finish the work outlined in the reorganization plan, increase the efficiency and customer service in state processes and put into place a system that will ensure careers in state government are attainable and rewarding.

“The reorganization was an important first step,” stated Little Hoover Commission Chairman Jonathan Shapiro. “California’s leaders must recognize that they have an opportunity to inspire Californians to consider a career in state service, but in order to build a talented, lasting and innovative workforce, the state must modernize its workforce management.”

In its report, From Hiring to Retiring: Strategies for Modernizing State Human Resources, the Commission found that the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) leadership had not demonstrated the holistic skill set necessary to oversee widespread reforms. In addition, the department lagged behind expectations in the development of key planning documents and in making progress on certain reforms. The Commission called for broader leadership at CalHR with a focus on best practices in human resources management, and a system built around clear, ambitious goals and performance metrics.

The 2011 plan set as a top priority greater efficiency and improved customer service to state agencies that use the department to facilitate their personnel operations. The 2011 plan also promised to delegate certain decision-making authority directly to departments. Additionally, the plan charged the new human resources department with modernization projects such as reducing the approximately 4,000 state job classifications. The Commission found these changes need additional progress.

The Commission called for more attention to these efforts and stronger initiative among the CalHR leadership. Reforms should include collaboration and clear communication with personnel officers in state departments, employee unions, employee advocacy groups and the public, as appropriate, the Commission said. Specifically, the Commission recommended:

  • CalHR and its leaders should have broad experience with best practices in human resource management to modernize the system and set and meet workforce goals. They also should demonstrate equal attention to a wide array of projects and programs.
  • The CalHR director should spearhead an extensive planning process that ultimately leads to a forward-thinking strategic plan for the department.
  • CalHR must prioritize delegation of human resources decision-making to line agencies, as promised, under a unified system of oversight, transparency and accountability. CalHR also must continue to improve communications with client agencies and further streamline services.
  • CalHR officials and program leaders should publicize a strategy, including a timeline, for consolidating a significant number of the state’s approximately 4,000 job classifications. The strategy should include measurable landmarks for gauging progress and should be monitored regularly by the department director and publicized routinely for public awareness.
  • Human resource leaders at CalHR, SPB and the Government Operations Agency, on an ongoing basis, should assess the CalHR website and state examination process with a focus on attracting and retaining a qualified and motivated workforce. These leaders should develop, with input from public employees, managers and the public, and publish a plan and timeline for improvements to the website and exams, including regular updates on progress to state personnel managers and the public.

The Little Hoover Commission is a bipartisan and independent state agency charged with recommending ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of state programs. The Commission’s recommendations are submitted to the Governor and the Legislature for their consideration and action. For a copy of the report, visit the Commission’s website: