Is the Mayor Doing All He Can to Raise Workforce Productivity in City Service?

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Mayor Villaraigosa’s current budget authorizes the expenditure of just over seven billion dollars in Fiscal Year 2008-09. Of that total, 60 percent—4.2 billion dollars—goes to support an underachieving City workforce. The question is, what’s the Mayor doing to enhance workforce productivity in City departments? The answer, sad to say, will surely not please the taxpayers of Los Angeles!
The fact is, Mayor Villaraigosa has missed major opportunities to improve the management of employee performance. Consider, for example, his failure to insist that department heads use the probationary period as a valid working test. That’s clearly what Civil Service Rule 1.26 requires. Yet, the Mayor stubbornly refuses to let that rule be enforced! He actually allows department heads to trample a rule that was specifically designed to keep poor performers off the City payroll! Predictably, the failure to enforce Rule 1.26 has consequences: it dumbs-down the City organization—and drives up the cost of City government!
The Mayor missed another opportunity to improve performance management when he endorsed the continued use of the City’s one-size-fits-all, trait-based rating procedure. That procedure, known as Employee Evaluation Report. PDAS-28, was established by the Board of Civil Service Commissioners way back in 1959! But instead of assessing what employees actually do on the job, PDAS-28 rates them on a list of personal traits. And since those traits are not defined, raters must provide their own definitions. Moreover, since there are no standards against which employees’ traits are to be rated, raters must also provide their own standards. Clearly, ratings based on Form PDAS-28 are not valid, not reliable and not defensible against legal challenge. More to the point, they make responsible talk about workforce productivity all but impossible!
Were the Villaraigosa Administration committed to enhancing productivity, it would first need to install a job-specific, performance-based system that facilitates the appraisal of productivity! Yet, that’s precisely what the Mayor—without debate or explanation—refuses even to field-test!
Now, Angelenos know the City’s workforce is less productive than it could be. What they don’t know is how much less productive it is than it could be! Thus, the relevant question is this: “How long will City taxpayers shell out 4.2 billion dollars a year to support a workforce they know could be more—perhaps way more—productive than it is?” The corollary question is, “How long will the voters support a Mayor who requires constituents to pay more than they should for their City services?”

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