Mismanaging Employees Jacks up the Cost of City Government


Why does city government cost so much? In my opinion, government costs so much because our leaders mismanage the City’s most expensive asset, a $4B workforce. To support that view, I ask the reader to consider the following facts:

  • The city budget for Fiscal Year 2010-11 comes to $6.7B. Of that total, $3.9B—58 percent—will go to support a workforce of 32,802 employees.
  • Those 32,802 employees will be assigned to work in 34 budgetary departments, all of which are known to lack effective performance management systems.
  • In City Service, department heads have historically mismanaged two components of human resource management—employee selection and performance appraisal.
  • Employee selection is routinely mismanaged because department heads refuse to use the probationary period as it was designed to be used—as the working test
  • Performance appraisal is mismanaged because department heads don’t understand that performance appraisals are supposed to appraise performance.

City government costs too much because of three mayors: Riordan, Hahn and Villaraigosa. They secretly stifled the Civil Service Commission, seized the Personnel Department, and hired a weak department head to do their bidding.

In effect, the administrations of Riordan, Hahn and Villaraigosa turned the city’s civil service system into 34 separate systems. Civil service rules are routinely ignored. Standards for personnel practices were lowered; they’re no longer required to be job-related, just user-friendly. Clearly, civil service has been dumbed-down, and now main- taining an underachieving workforce is regarded “good enough for government work!”

Our leaders at City Hall need to be reminded that, in a democracy, government is “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Leaders are elected/appointed to do for the people what they can’t do for themselves. Leaders’ salaries are paid by the people; their benefits (including retirement) are provided by the people. In return for what they give their leaders, Angelenos expect city services to be delivered at a price they can afford.

How can the cost of city government be brought under control? Well, one thing must be obvious to all Angelenos: human resource mismanagement wastes money. It makes absolutely no sense to spend four billion dollars (58 percent of the annual budget) hiring employees whose fitness for the job is not demonstrated before they achieve permanent status, and whose actual job performance is typically not assessed afterwards.

How can the cost of city government be controlled? At this point, I ask the reader to review the facts cited above. As I see it, government costs too much because elected and appointed officials cling to personnel practices that effective organizations have long since abandoned. To raise productivity and reduce costs in city departments, managers must invite employees to help manage their own jobs. It’s no more complicated than that.

Fight back, Angelenos! Your leaders at City Hall are throwing your money away!

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