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Examining the Impact of New Security Approaches on the TSA Workforce

The client’s perspective

Because threats are always evolving, security must too. Few agencies know this better than the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which secures the nation’s transportation systems to support the free flow of people and goods.

Created in the wake of a national tragedy that changed the country forever, TSA is a steward of the nation’s travelers in a post 9-11 world. Transportation security officers play a vital role—in 2014, they screened an average of 1.8 million passengers a day.

To stay ahead of new threats and provide travelers with a safe and convenient travel experience, TSA continually refines security. In 2011, the agency implemented a risk-based security (RBS) protocol based on the premise that the majority of airline passengers are low risk. By aligning security protocols with passenger risk levels, TSA could focus limited resources on unknown passengers while expediting known and trusted travelers.

The agency recognized the new security approach would mean significant process and technology changes. But how would the RBS protocols impact the day-to-day work of the transportation security officer workforce on the frontlines of change? TSA needed to answer this question.

A new view

TSA and Eagle Hill had worked together previously on several workforce programs, having developed a strong relationship based on mutual respect and a track record of success.

In discussions with TSA, we recognized that the “people” aspect of the RBS transformation was essential to its ultimate success. TSA agreed and selected us to help explore the RBS workforce impacts as part of a joint effort across multiple divisions including: Human Capital, Security Operations, Security Capabilities, Training and Workforce Engagement, and Risk-Based Security.

This examination was essential so that TSA could ensure that airport-based employees were fully prepared for the RBS protocol implementation. TSA wanted to identify impacts in several key areas, including:

  • Key competencies
  • Knowledge gaps
  • Hiring
  • Performance management
  • Training
  • Development standards

A breakaway approach

Working collaboratively with the RBS Action Team from May to November 2012, we took a comprehensive approach to defining potential RBS workforce changes.

Drawing on extensive human capital and change management know-how, we assessed the workforce within the broader context of policies, processes, functional responsibilities and technologies. This ability to bring a single line of vision to workforce transformation is fundamental to the Eagle Hill way.

We were also uniquely positioned to provide necessary support and bridge building among different stakeholder groups that had not implemented a workforce transformation of this size or scope. Our primary responsibilities included helping to:

  • Connect. Identify cross-functional members for the RBS Workforce Transformation Working Group from program offices across TSA.
  • Plan. Develop a comprehensive Working Group Charter and an approach for creating focused “tiger teams” to develop targeted research and recommendations.
  • Facilitate. Provide facilitation support for the RBS Workforce Transformation Action Team.
  • Support. Develop meeting agendas and minutes, status reports and project plans to support the Action Team and to provide progress updates to leadership.

Our team developed 33 comprehensive and actionable recommendations related to a number of workforce areas—from testing and training to performance management and specialization. TSA leadership approved all of the recommendations, and the Office of Human Capital took the lead on implementing them.

In recognition of its strong collaboration and strategic approach, the RBS Action Team won a 2012 TSA Honorary Award in the Team Category.