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The NY Department of Civil Service's transformation of a bloated, unworkable bureaucracy focused on flexibility, efficiency, recruiting, and innovation.

February 28, 2001
Related Topics: Reengineering, Service
The department's transformation of abloated, unworkable bureaucracy focused on flexibility, efficiency, recruiting,and innovation.

   Several areas of New York's civilsystem were plagued by rigid policies that frustrated hiring agencies,employees, and candidates. One of the first steps in reform was to draft andpass legislation allowing state employees to transfer between agencies,essentially making the state one employer. The bill passed in 1996. That yearthe state workforce was reduced by 7,400 from the previous year. Because of thetransfer program, combined with attrition, retirements, and control of fillingand refilling vacancies, only 285 employees were actually laid off.

    The department also introduced bandscoring to increase flexibility in hiring managers. Traditionally, in order toqualify for a competitive position with the state, candidates had to have one ofthe top three scores on an exam. Now, competitive-level tests are band scored(i.e., 90, 95, 100), which gives agencies a larger pool of qualified candidatesto choose from.

   An excessive number of titles boggeddown the system. In December 1995, there were 6,220 job titles in New YorkState. By the year 2000, more than 2,300 titles had been eliminated. Now, forexample, a laboratory caretaker, elevator operator, and grounds worker all sharethe title of "building assistant I."

    The department also made vastimprovements in civil service exam administration and reporting procedures. Forstate exam results, the time has been reduced from an average of 150 to lessthan 50 days. In some cases, same-day results are available. Exam takers canalso get performance profiles online.

    Applicants can register by telephone orin person. While computer technology is at the core of improving customerservice, the state strives to make information accessible to all constituents.

    Promotion test batteries have improvedhiring efficacy as well. Rather than traditional title-by-title testing formanagement-level positions, tests are administered to groups within a certainjob-grade level. This program received the International Personnel ManagementAssociation Assessment Council's Year 2000 Innovations in Assessment Award.

    The provisional system was alsoencumbered by inefficiencies. Provisional employees are supposed to fillpositions for up to nine months until they can take the required qualifyingexam. In 1995, more than 5,500 employees were serving provisionally. Some hadbeen in that status for decades. The reforms included testing all provisionalemployees and improving exam processing. The number of provisional employees wasreduced by about 5,000.

Aggressive recruiting
   The civil service department has takenseveral steps to recruit new talent. It has revitalized a Public ManagementInternship program in affiliation with the Rockefeller Institute of Government.This program attracts promising young talent who are on the management track.The department also has stepped up efforts to attract candidates to other civilservice jobs, such as nursing and computer programming. It also launched the NewYork City Civil Service Outreach & Recruitment Center. It now works withmore than 500 community-based organizations.

Technological innovation
   The department has undergone a completetechnology infrastructure update to improve customer services. The expanded Website and secured-site services get praise from state and municipal civil serviceagencies. The department's Web site has a wide range of information about civilservice employment, such as job announcements and exam dates. The EmployeeBenefits Division OnLine is a secure Web site that features electronic access tobenefits information.

    New York State Electronic PersonnelSystem (NYSTEP) was put in place to electronically process civil servicepersonnel transactions and classification activities. This increases access toinformation that is vital to managing the state's workforce. The AccidentReporting System (ARS) was set up to automate and standardize procedures forreporting occupational injuries and accidents incurred by state employees. Thishas reduced the average accident-report filing time by more than 50 percent.

    "Getting Connected" was putin place to provide equipment to municipal civil service agencies to administerPC-based civil service tests, download test results, and correspond by e-mailwith the municipal service division of the civil service department and otherlocal agencies. This program also helps link local governments to other NYScounties, cities, towns, and villages.

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