Facilitating a Successful Workforce Transition and Realignment within CBP
The client’s perspective
With more than 60,000 employees, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations. As the world’s first full-service border entity, CBP takes a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated effort focused on keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the Unites States while facilitating lawful international travel and trade.
The men and women of CBP enforce hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations. On a typical day, CBP welcomes nearly one million visitors, screens more than 67,000 cargo containers, arrests more than 1,100 individuals and seizes nearly six tons of illicit drugs.
Within CBP, the U.S. Office of Border Patrol (OBP) is tasked with preventing terrorists and their weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, from entering the United States. To help the Border Patrol maintain effective control of the land between the official ports of entry, the Facilities Management and Engineering’s (FM&E) Border Patrol Facilities and Tactical Infrastructure Program Management Office (BPFTI PMO) provides long-term planning, construction, and maintenance capabilities of both tactical infrastructure (roads, fencing, lights, electrical components and drainage structures) and facilities (sector headquarters, stations, checkpoints and forward operating bases).
In August 2010, FM&E was asked to take on additional management responsibilities, including moving all facility managers and wage schedule employees that supported the facilities and/or tactical infrastructure maintenance to FM&E’s BPFTI PMO. This transfer of staff was a major undertaking, tripling the size of BPFTI PMO’s workforce and adding more locations to an already geographically disperse organization. The added workforce comprised all new job series (such as facility managers, maintenance mechanics, electricians and welders), whose accompanying competencies were far different from the current workforce of program/project managers, architects, and business analysts.
In addition to now overseeing and being responsible for a variety of new maintenance-related tasks, BPFTI PMO would also take over related functions such as payroll, government purchase cards, management of tools and equipment, and cell phones. This added a level of complexity for the organization, as many of these administrative tasks has not previously been under the purview of the BPFTI and required new competencies and skill sets to appropriately manage them.
A major culture change for all was looming. For FM&E BPFTI PMO to successfully merge the facility managers and wage schedule employees with its current staff, strategic change management and clear, targeted communication were critical.
A new view
The upheaval caused by staff mergers often creates problems with employee morale and retention. To address these concerns, Eagle Hill was brought on to the program in March 2013 to:
- Provide change management and strategic communications during the workforce integration
- Manage the Roles and Responsibilities Integrated Process Team to clarify job duties and ensure position descriptions (most notably the wage schedule positions) were appropriately aligned
- Update, through facilitated discussions with subject matter experts, all relevant policies and procedures that were impacted by the newly created organization to reflect new and improved processes
- Facilitate twice-yearly reviews and update the service level agreement (SLA) between the Office of Border Patrol and BPFTI PMO to ensure that the Office of Border Patrol received the necessary support to achieve its critical mission
A breakaway approach
To help ensure operations would continue without interruption after the reorganization, Eagle Hill worked with internal and external stakeholders to develop a strategic outreach and communications plan aimed to ensure that communication would be consistent, clear, and targeted. Many of the newly integrated staff (such as mechanics, heavy equipment operators and welders) were not used to receiving communication via traditional methods, such as email. In response, Eagle Hill implemented alternate communication strategies to ensure that all employees, regardless of occupation, were kept informed.
Historically, BPFTI PMO has been composed of program/project managers, architects, and business analysts. The addition of the new staff, which had its own culture and skillsets, greatly impacted the existing culture. This was the impetus to creating a Roles and Responsibilities Integrated Project Team. Eagle Hill is leading this team with the goals of clarifying roles and expectations for both the employee and the manager and ensuring that all employees work within their designated position description. Eagle Hill’s approach includes structured interviews, in-depth analysis of the interview results and relevant, targeted recommendations.
With the organization more than tripling in size, all affected processes, policies and procedures needed review. Eagle Hill systematically targeted the four process areas identified for review and updating. Eagle Hill conducted an initial assessment to determine the current state in each area and held sessions with subject manner experts to review all impacted processes. At the conclusion of these sessions, Eagle Hill produced four new policy and process documents to inform both the customer and the subject matter expert. Eagle Hill will also help establish and lead a change control board to allow for timely and relevant updates.
Additionally, Eagle Hill worked with BPFTI PMO leadership and supporting organizations across the agency such as the Office of Border Patrol, Budget, Human Resources, Payroll, Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Organizational Resources and Support (OR&S) to facilitate a smooth transition of the wage schedule employees and supporting functions. For examples:
- Eagle Hill instituted twice-yearly Border Patrol Follow-Up Calls to gauge the success of the transition and address any questions or concerns. The first round of follow-up calls has already been completed and received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
- We helped put in place a Service Level Agreement (SLA) Change Control Board (CCB) that solicits input on a regular basis from OBP and BPFTI PMO regarding any changes that need to be made to the SLA or sector-specific appendices. This board, made up of OBP and BPFTI PMO representatives, reviews and approves or rejects change requests. Results are then reported to the field and requestors and the updated documents are circulated for review. These meetings have been helpful in increasing communication between business partners and addressing outstanding issues.
- Approval to Hire Vacant Positions: As a part of the initial transition and due to normal attrition, BPFTI PMO had 23 vacant positions, all of which were deemed “critical” for maintenance operations. The CBP hiring freeze, which included these vacancies, has made it more difficult for BPFTI PMO maintenance staff to fulfill all OBP requirements as needed positions remain unfilled. With support from OBP, BPFTI PMO pursued a hiring waiver to be able to fill these 23 critical vacancies around the country during the hiring freeze. This waiver was approved in April 2013 and BPFTI PMO is in the process of closing the first set of vacancies. Being able to fill these vacancies will ensure BPFTI PMO will have the manpower to meet Border Patrol requirements.
- Per the SLA, OBP agreed to continue supporting BPFTI PMO with some functions, such as time tracking, payroll, tracking of government purchase cards and others, during the transition. While the support is appreciated, Eagle Hill has been helping BPFTI PMO work toward taking over these support functions so Border Patrol can focus on their primary homeland security mission.
It was determined that several Mission Support Specialists (MSS) spend 100% of their time supporting BPFTI PMO maintenance personnel and functions in the field were missed in the initial transfer. An additional request was developed for these nine employees which was approved and implemented in April 2013. This transfer has allowed the maintenance and facilities personnel to receive proper mission support.
Eagle Hill continues working with the BPFTI PMO to support the workforce transition with change management, stakeholder communications, and business process definition and improvement. Our major accomplishments to date include:
- BPFTI PMO recently celebrated the one year past the transition mark, with no impact or disruptions to day-to-day operations. Conversations with the Office of Border Patrol indicate that the transfer has been positive and has led to a continuation of or improvement of the level of service previously received.
- Communications between BPFTI PMO and the Office of Border Patrol have improved through frequent “check ins” among management, the SLAs and by having BPFTI PMO facility managers and wage schedule employees on the ground in each sector.
- CBP offices have become more integrated across the agency as they support the facility manager and wage schedule workforce transition. Facility managers and wage schedule employees now have become familiar with whom to contact in BPFTI PMO with questions/ concerns. Moreover, facility managers have been included in several program management activities, such as the Roles and Responsibilities Integrated Project Team (IPT).
- BPFTI PMO is in the process of reviewing best practices in the field (where wage schedule employees may maintain varied processes by sector) and implementing standard processes across the country to streamline operations. Several policies such as the Overtime and Convenience Check Policies have already been developed.
- Administrative support functions for maintenance and repair as well as tools, equipment, cell phones, and purchase cards have been transferred (or are in the final stages of transferring) to FM&E, lifting this burden from Border Patrol so the organization can focus on its primary homeland security mission.
- BPFTI PMO leadership has begun reviewing vacant positions against the bigger picture of national needs and assigning positions to the sectors where they are most needed.
- In July 2013, BPFTI PMO, along with a number of individuals from across CBP, received a Commissioner’s Mission Integration Award for the physical/logistical transition of the Facility Managers and WS employees from OBP to Office of Administration (OA). The purpose of this award is “to recognize a team of employees who demonstrated a cross-organizational approach and worked on behalf of the Agency.” Individuals from directorates agency-wide worked closely to create the cross-organizational approach described in the award, uniting resources from OBP, Budget, HR, Payroll, and OIT, to name only a few, to ensure a seamless conversion of these employees to BPFTI PMO, a process that has continued far beyond the official transition date of June 3, 2012.
- Change Management
- Strategic Communication
- Organizational Design and Development
- Stakeholder Analysis and Management
- Business Process Reengineering
- Project Management