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FY 2017 EEOC MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) must overcome several hurdles to better succeed in its mission to “stop and remedy unlawful employment discrimination.”  In fiscal year 2017, EEOC effectively addressed some of the management challenges we identified in last year’s management challenges.  For fiscal year 2018, EEOC needs to continue focusing on strategic performance management, the private sector inventory, and data analytics. We believe EEOC leadership should continue to pursue progress in these challenge areas. 

Strategic Performance Management

In fiscal year 2017, the Agency continued to make progress by meeting some of its performance targets and updating its Strategic Enforcement Plan.  In fiscal year 2017, as well as in fiscal years 2015 and 2016, the Agency enjoyed mixed success in meeting its performance targets (eight met, five partially met, and one not applicable−as of October 11, 2017).  Last year, we advocated that in developing the new strategic plan (for fiscal years 2018-2022), the Agency should adopt additional outcome-based measures.

However, the Agency faces a challenge in developing a new strategic plan.  EEOC needs to better measure critical outcomes for its customers.  Regardless of the goals EEOC adopts in the new strategic plan, it remains critical that EEOC begin to track progress toward reducing unlawful employment discrimination.  Our March 2013 evaluation of the strategic plan’s performance measures (https://oig.eeoc.gov/reports/audit/2012-010-pmev) stated “the current measures do not cover the nation’s progress towards achieving the [EEOC’s] overarching goal: to reduce employment discrimination in the United States.” The Agency, in its fiscal years 2016-2019 Research and Data Plan, also recognizes that measuring employment discrimination is a worthy effort.   Therefore, fiscal year 2018 is the right time for EEOC to directly address the obstacles that have prevented this most critical measurement of EEOC’s success.  In addition, as we noted last year, our reports show that EEOC should better measure program effectiveness .1

We believe ample opportunity remains for EEOC to craft a stronger mission-focused strategic plan.  The Office of Management and Budget allows for strategic plan modifications at any time when changes are justified.

Management of the Private-Sector Charge Inventory

As in previous years, EEOC is challenged to decrease the private-sector charge inventory, while improving the quality of charge processing.  The inventory data shows that the inventory decreased 18.1 percent over the last four years.  The inventory increased by 6.9 percent in fiscal year 2014, to 75,658.  In fiscal year 2015, the inventory increased 1.4 percent, to 76,408.  In fiscal year 2016, the inventory decreased by 3.8 percent to 73,508.  In fiscal year 2017, EEOC again reduced the inventory, with a 15.7 percent reduction (based on the Agency’s estimate of an inventory of 61,941).  Two major reasons for the fiscal year 2017 decreased inventory are fewer filings from charging parties and increased priority on inventory reduction.  Despite this significant decline, much work remains.  

Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic, in July 2017, addressed the inventory issue by distributing a discussion memo to senior managers describing how to substantially reduce the inventory.  Reducing inventory will allow the Agency to free up resources to pursue strategically important cases.  The memo addresses key issues involved with reducing the inventory, including: accurately defining the terms “inventory” and “backlog;” determining the sustainable number of charges; holding field offices accountable for consistently implementing Priority Charge Handling Processing; increased use of digital technologies to increase staff time for investigating and resolving charges; and, as needed, aggressively addressing the inventory issues in individual field offices through various means.  The primary challenge is to ensure that all field offices understand and fully implement the changes.

Management of Data Analytics Activities

Data analytics can be defined as the science of examining raw data with the purpose of finding patterns and drawing conclusions about that information to produce better understanding.  Data analysis, on the other hand, is the process of inspecting, cleansing, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of discovering useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision-making.  The EEOC faces a challenge in developing a comprehensive data analytics strategy.  Without such a strategy and its implementation, EEOC lacks a major tool in using data to improve its ability to fashion remedies for unlawful employment discrimination. As we noted last year, improved data analytics is vital for EEOC to determine if agency efforts are effective in deterring, detecting, and stopping employment discrimination, as well as where and how EEOC should efficiently place its resources.

EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for fiscal years 2017-2021 affirms that collecting and analyzing data is central to EEOC’s enforcement and education/outreach outcomes.  EEOC’s Research and Data Plan identified data analytics projects and made the Office of Research, Information and Planning responsible for analyzing the health of EEOC’s analytic data. In 2017, the Agency completed a draft assessment of its data inventory.  Completing the data inventory will aid EEOC’s development of a data analytics roadmap that includes strategy, leadership, and staffing. 

Data Analytics Strategy

EEOC does not have an agency-wide data analytics strategy.  The Agency’s Research and Data Plan describes projects associated with mission-critical analytical work, but does not contain an Agency data analytics strategy.  A well-defined Agency data analytics strategy is essential to ensuring that analytics activities are results-oriented, transparent, and proportionate to the enforcement and educational/outreach challenges facing EEOC.  A strong data analytics strategy aligns with strategies for business intelligence, information technology, and quality improvement. 

Data Analytics Leadership

EEOC currently lacks an experienced management official fully versed in data analytics practices and procedures.   Such a subject matter expert at the senior leadership level is essential to develop and implement a successful data analytics strategy. The Agency must identify a senior manager to champion solutions to the challenges of developing an effective and efficient data analytics strategy.  The Agency recently approved the hiring of a Senior Executive Service individual with the title Chief Data Officer. This executive will lead the Agency’s Office of Research, Information and Planning, which we previously noted is responsible for analyzing the health of EEOC’s analytic data. The individual is scheduled to report to duty mid-November 2017.

Data Analytics Staffing

An Agency goal, as cited in the Research and Data Plan, is to move the EEOC towards using more sophisticated analytical tools for enforcement, education/outreach, and operational performance to better serve the public and continuously improve the agency's work overall. However, EEOC does not employ data analytic or data management specialists, making this goal difficult to accomplish.  A review of the position descriptions of those individuals associated with conducting information analysis of Agency data (Economists and Social Science Analysts) demonstrates that Agency staff possess skillsets more closely associated with data analysis.  In an effort, in part, to address this skill gap EEOC’s Office of Information Technology identified an Analytics/Data Management Lead position as a hiring priority for fiscal year 2018 to support EEOC’s data analytic goals.