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TSA Administrator For a Day

Experts offer suggestions for large-scale hiring, including offering an incentive plan for local recruiters.

September 18, 2003
Related Topics: Growth, Recruitment, Staffing Management

Had human resources executives been in charge of hiring platoons of qualified airport screeners at the Transportation Security Administration instead of high government officials, they might have responded differently. Nick Corcodilos, editor of Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, calls the whole post-9/11 TSA enterprise "a classic example of bureaucratic foibles," and then says that the agency’s assignment was chiefly a "resources-allocation problem."

    He would have taken a two-step approach to quickly filling essential roles. First, he would have looked into "renting, begging, borrowing people who have at least been vetted" by other government agencies--the post office, for instance, or the military. Step two: Corcodilos would have asked American business to identify good workers who were about to be let go for non-performance-related reasons unrelated to performance and signed them up.

    Les Rosen is not intimidated by the idea of staffing the TSA. "Over a 10-month period, the hiring needs come down to 5,500 hires a month, or 250 people a day (assuming 22 workdays)," he says. "Given the fact the workers are spread out across the United States, on the average that is only five hires per working day per state." Rosen would have created a generic hiring procedure, and then had local human resources people do the actual hiring. Rosen’s TSA would include an incentive plan for local recruiters. "Since part of the fee would be based upon ‘success,’ the hiring professionals have an economic incentive to hire the best, not just move bodies."

    Roy Bordes, International Council vice president of ASIS in Virginia, suggests a straightforward, alphabetized plan that is impressively detailed, including a series of steps from A to J. He would have set up a series of committees, deadlines, and on-the-job training processes. (His inspiration comes from the military: "The best way to know how to shoot a gun is to shoot a gun, thereby requiring limited class time and extended range time.")

    Bordes says that the TSA should have worked with private industry from the very beginning. The agency, he reports, spent "six months in getting each political appointee on board, most of whom were worthless." He also maintains that the organization needed better crisis management. "They had blow-ups every day in the beginning and really provided some dumb responses to the American people."

    Nonetheless, Bordes concludes that "TSA did a relatively good job in addressing the situation in light of the fact that they had to fight all of the political games occurring at that time. As a frequent flier (150,000 milers per year) I have seen improvements in the overall screening process and in the attitudes of passengers toward that process."

Workforce Management, August 2003, p. 49 -- Subscribe Now!

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