Building a Next-Generation Workforce at U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

The client’s perspective

The United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) designs and produces the United States’ paper currency. Its primary mission is very tangible – print billions of notes each year for delivery to the Federal Reserve. However, the BEP also handles numerous, less visible functions, including advising other federal agencies on document security matters; processing claims for the redemption of mutilated currency; and conducting research into new automation and counterfeit deterrent technologies. Keeping such a complex and critical organization performing at its peak requires a skilled, motivated, and stable workforce.

In recent years, several factors contributed to the Bureau’s heightened interest in implementing a human capital strategic plan that would set the agency’s “people” mission and vision, goals, and objectives for the next five years. First, BEP leadership recognized the need for an increasingly flexible and innovative workforce that could keep pace with technology’s evolution. Second, due to its unique mission and craft occupations (e.g., Plate Printers), BEP is often unable to hire experienced and appropriately skilled staff from the outside – it has to develop its people from within. Third, leadership recognized the need for a comprehensive strategy to set priorities for its human capital initiatives and drive meaningful workforce improvements.

These human capital needs were further complicated by a number of upcoming Bureau milestones. Among these, BEP will be moving to a new facility in the next 7-10 years, but has to begin training and/or repositioning staff for operations in that new facility now. A planned redesign of the $10 note is another major initiative that will affect the workforce as it will require innovative technology, processes, and specialized skills to accomplish. Finally, more than half of BEP’s workforce is eligible for retirement in the next five years. Many of these people are in craft positions, working on the printing floor and operating highly specialized machines. BEP needs to find ways to capture their institutional knowledge before they leave the workforce for good.

A new view

To address these challenges, BEP called on Eagle Hill to help develop a five-year plan to help the Bureau meet its strategic goals of building a “next generation” workforce and creating a Best Place to Work that fosters a positive and engaging work environment. BEP already knew Eagle Hill through a benchmarking study we had done for the Transportation Security Administration and through the excellent reputation we had built through our work with the Bureau of Public Debt (now merged into the Bureau of the Fiscal Service). They turned to us for our ability to make sense of large amounts of existing data, prioritize initiatives, and define a logical starting point for improvement.

Our first step was a current state analysis to understand the workforce challenges and root causes. We held focus groups and interviews with more than 170 internal stakeholders at every level of the organization. We also conducted interviews and benchmarking with several external organizations, including the U.S. Treasury and U.S. Mint, and even with BEP’s paper and ink suppliers, to collect best practices and understand where BEP’s workforce could improve. We supplemented this interview and focus group data with other quantitative workforce data analysis (such as cost per hire and retirement eligibility), and then prioritized our findings.

Based on our current state analysis and best practices identified through benchmarking, we developed a five-year plan that includes five goals and nearly 20 initiatives. To set the course for prioritizing and implementing initiatives, we created a detailed operational plan. We helped BEP set its 2016 priorities which fell into seven major areas: workforce planning; competency modeling; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) training and development; apprenticeship training; upward mobility; knowledge management; and leadership development. We also developed a clear plan for communicating progress to the workforce and measuring performance results.

An unconventional approach—and breakthrough results

We knew right from the start that we wanted BEP’s Human Capital Strategic Plan to be easily understandable and relevant to the workforce. In order to do so, we created interactive infographics that showed how employees’ experience at BEP would evolve from today to 2020 when implementation is complete. This visual approach distilled many pages of detailed information into manageable and accessible materials.

We also took creative approaches to solving workforce challenges. For example, one recommended initiative focused on establishing a systematic workforce planning process that enables BEP to take a data-driven approach to understanding its current and future workforce needs. Another recommended initiative involved standing up a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Rotational Training and Development Program to attract STEM professionals and build current STEM employee skills – which are critical to achieving BEP’s “next generation” workforce.

BEP employees at all levels were engaged throughout the development process – not just at the beginning or the end. We wanted the human capital initiatives to be reflective of BEP’s culture and people so we kept all of those affected by the human capital plan up to date on every milestone along the way. This ongoing collaboration and routine workforce communications were key to building consensus and buy-in.

While our work with BEP has only just begun (Eagle Hill is currently in the first of five years of implementation), we are proud that BEP has formalized an integrated Human Capital Strategic Plan where one had not before existed.