The 30 findings highlighted in this report can be summarized under five broad themes. For the most part, these themes emerged early in this committee's research and were reaffirmed time and time again, irrespective of the department being examined. A description of these themes follows to help frame the findings and recommendations included in this report.
1) The city lacks an integrated human resources management system.
A true modern day human resources management system requires that the Department of Personnel, the Labor Commissioner's Office, and the personnel-related functions within the Law Department, the Finance Department and the operating agencies are integrated. Instead, under the present system these offices operate essentially on their own, with little communication and coordination. The central Department of Personnel communicates new policies and procedures to the agencies almost exclusively through written memoranda; the agencies avoid contact with the Department of Personnel where possible; the Labor Commissioner's Office has typically involved neither the Department of Personnel nor the Law Department in union negotiations; and the Law Department has not been actively engaged in the Department of Personnel's development of employee training or orientation programs.
The relationship between the Department of Personnel and the operating departments can best be described as "strained." Their interaction is kept to a minimum and, with some exceptions, the communication that does exist seems to be characterized by accusations and "finger-pointing." The departments blame DOP staff for being obstructionists and needlessly delaying requests and the DOP accuses the departments of not planning ahead and not hiring trained human resources professionals. In some cases, the relationships are so poor that communication has all but ceased at the highest levels.
2) The system is based on a fundamental mistrust of managers and gives managers neither the tools nor the authority to succeed.
The process in place and the number of approvals required for even the most basic personnel-related change suggest a fundamental distrust of operating department supervisors and managers on the part of administrative agency heads. A culture permeates city government that is based on an overall assumption that department managers will not manage according to budget or proper personnel rules and procedures. Thus every personnel-related change, no matter how basic or minimal, must be approved by the Department of Personnel and other administrative agencies. Delegation of real decision-making authority to operating departments about personnel matters is limited.
Unfortunately, the mistrust of managers may be justified in some cases at this point in time. The committee found that while there are exceptions, many of the city's managers and supervisors do not follow good personnel management practices, particularly with respect to holding their employees accountable to established performance standards and following proper disciplinary procedures. Training for managers and supervisors, though improved in recent years, has been inadequate, and supervisory skills generally have not been included in a supervisor's performance evaluation. Without adequate training, with little accountability, and operating in a culture in which supervisory skills have not been sufficiently valued, it is not surprising that good managers are bound to be the exception rather than the rule. The committee strongly believes that if given the authority, training and tools to succeed, and if properly held accountable for their work, the vast majority of the city's managers and supervisors would meet the demands of greater decision-making authority.
3) The system rewards non-work rather than work.
The city offers few incentives for good performance and few disincentives for poor performance. Pay increases and promotions have more to do with tenure than with performance, and few employees are fired. As a result, an employee has little reason to go above and beyond the minimal requirements of his or her job.
Additionally, the State of Maryland requires that an employee injured on the job receive 66 percent of his or her average weekly wage while recovering from a work-related injury and unable to perform his or her normal job. However, under Baltimore City rules and regulations, every city employee who is injured on the job receives 100 percent salary reimbursement while recovering and unable to perform his or her normal job. Under both scenarios, the income the employee receives during this recovery period is tax-free.
Accordingly, injuries are likely to be more common and the recovery period longer when a greater financial incentive exists to nurse a work-related injury than to return to work. Abuse of the system abounds -- one employee on accident leave was discovered to have been traveling in Egypt during this recovery period.
4) Demographics and economics have changed; the system needs to catch up.
The current personnel system was created at a time when the city's population and tax base were significantly greater than today. Efficient and timely operation of the system requires a level of staff resources that is no longer available. As an example, the Classification and Compensation Division is charged with reviewing all classification requests but has only three full-time employees. Nearly every classification request mandates a full desk audit requiring a representative from DOP to conduct an on-site interview to assess and recommend whether or not to agree with the department's request. With 1200 classifications and more than 1,100 requests submitted each year, it is virtually impossible for the DOP to process these requests in a timely fashion.
In addition, many of the policies that are costing the city extraordinary amounts in taxpayer expense and worker productivity are the cumulative result of labor agreements that have been entered into by the city. In difficult economic times when the city has been short on cash, in lieu of salary increases, the city has conceded benefits and work conditions (e.g.- duration of accident leave, number of vacation days, premiums for health benefits) which, over time, have resulted in excessive costs and, in some cases, alarming inefficiencies. As the cost to fund these benefits has increased, there have been little, if any, adjustments to the contracts. For example, the cost of health care has skyrocketed since many of the existing health benefits and employee contributions were negotiated and agreed upon.
5) The system suffers from a profound lack of technology.
Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since the city's attendance, payroll, hiring, reclassification and grievance processes were developed; yet these processes remain essentially paper-based. Despite various consultant studies and commissioned reports that have emphasized the need for a new information management system, the old system remains. Admittedly, investment in a new Human Resources Information System would be costly even if the investment were phased-in over time, but in the long term the city has no choice but to invest in new technology. Baltimore City's present system is so obsolete that it risks becoming such an anachronism that we can no longer find employees who can understand and operate its mainframe-based system. In addition, although it is difficult to quantify, the long-term savings in direct costs and efficiencies that result from automation outweigh the investment in an HRIS.