The State Worker

New review seeks simplified California civil-service system

State officials have said it for years: California’s civil-service system needs to boil down the number of job classifications and rewrite titles and duties so that government outsiders can more easily find jobs and apply for them.

But until now, no one had ever taken a detailed look at the 3,666 job classifications that divvy up the state workforce, much less figure out which should be whacked, consolidated or rewritten.

A team of retired annuitants with deep human resources experience (and a tolerance for examining reams of mind-numbing minutiae) spent 1,000 hours to assess every job classification, then suggested in a new report to the State Personnel Board on Thursday how the government could bring the number down to just under 2,100. The four-month project by the Department of Human Resources came in ahead of schedule, CalHR spokeswoman Pat McConahay said, and for less that two-thirds the $68,000 budgeted for it.

Here are some key changes in the proposal, with upsides and obstacles to each:

1. Consolidate similar jobs into civil service-wide job classifications.

Upside: One test would cover dozens, hundreds or even thousands of job openings and eliminate the need to test for promotions that are more symbol than substance.

Obstacle: Creating job classifications has become a way to give employees more money without calling it a raise.

Shortly after Department of Human Resources team that wrote the report pitched eliminating nearly half the state’s job classes, the Personnel Board on Thursday signed off on adding new classifications for state attorneys and hearing officers. Their union and Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration agreed to ask for the new classes – and the higher pay attached to them – as part of last year’s contract talks.

2. Change confusing job titles and duty descriptions.

Upside: Government outsiders could more easily find state jobs and apply for them.

“It’s not even intuitive for someone trying to find an auditor job because ‘auditor’ isn’t in the title,” Department of Human Resources Director Richard Gillihan said as he introduced the first-ever review on Thursday. “

Obstacle: Not all government jobs easily translate into intuitive private-sector terms. An “associate government program analyst” is the largest job classification in state government, a sort of catch-all class with varying duties depending on a department’s needs. It could be difficult to put those kinds of positions into easily-understood terms.

3. Stop adding new classifications.

Upside: A moratorium now means less work later when it’s time to weed the field. It also starts the cultural paradigm shift needed to adopt the leaner classification system.

Obstacle: Old habits and political pressures are hard to kill. See “obstacle” under item No. 1.

State personnel officials must now assess the 1,000 pages of class-by-class proposals. Any proposed changes to represented job classifications would trigger a 30-day notice to affected unions, which may then request to meet and confer the about them.

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.