The Times They Are A-Changin’
The Bob Dylan classic is a little before my time, but probably a song we can all relate to. Although Dylan released the song in 1964, it seems as though it could have been written for the rapidly changing times of today. The year of 2020 will be an incredible landmark event in all our lives.
The thought of a global pandemic that shut down travel, business activity and economies around the world was the subject of novels and movies until it became a reality earlier this year. The result has been a collapse in oil prices that brought the price to a historic low of nearly -$40, the first time in history the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil traded negative.
As business activity was shut in across the country, state and local tax revenues fell and unemployment claims soared. Nationally, unemployment claims jumped from around 280,000 claims per week in mid-March to 6.9 million per week by the end of March. In North Dakota, we saw weekly unemployment claims jump from around 500 in mid-March to over 16,000 by the beginning of April.
We saw an all-time high in the stock market on February 12, 2020, when the Dow reached 29,551.42. The six largest single day declines in the Dow occurred between late March and mid-April 2020. The seven largest single day gains ever recorded in the Dow also occurred in April and May 2020. It has been a period of unprecedented volatility and uncertainty that impacts all of us.
The impact on our state budget will be dramatic as we face declining revenues and increasing needs in many areas. Oil tax revenues, which account for nearly a quarter of our general fund revenues, will likely be less than half of what was expected for the current biennium, and could be even lower in the 2021-23 biennium. General fund revenues from other sources are also expected to be significantly lower as the state’s economy takes time to recover. The state faces costs to support individuals and businesses through the pandemic, as well as the increased costs to continue the essential services of state government.
One of the most drastic changes we have seen is the sudden transition of over 7,000 state team members to a telework environment. Although it does not affect everyone in state government or within OMB, it is a drastic shift for the majority of us. It is a shift we never could have imagined a couple months ago. Although, for some state team members there will be a return to what we considered “normal” before the pandemic, it seems clear that for many state team members and employees across the country, there will be a new “normal”. There will be a new work environment that embraces flexibility of location and allows teleworking to become a standard business practice. This will result in a drastic change in the physical location needs of private business and government…and has the potential to drastically lower our costs.
Although change can be difficult, it offers the opportunity to reinvent processes and to embrace new thinking. The changes we have seen in state government are not over. We will continue to see rapid change to business processes as we move away from antiquated paper processes to new digital platforms that can improve service, lower costs and allow productive work from any location.
As we reflect on the incredible changes we have seen over the first few months of 2020, I encourage you to look to the future and think of how we can work together to embrace the change in state government. Use this time of rapid change as an opportunity to rethink how we work, where we work, and how we serve the citizens of North Dakota so that we can emerge with an enterprise that is more effective and efficient than ever before.
HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT SERVICES
Workforce Coordination Center Serving ND's Emergency Workforce Needs
The Workforce Coordination Center (WCC) was activated by Governor Burgum on March 31, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The WCC provides support to state agencies and critical industries during staff shortages by matching needs with appropriate skilled personnel.
Since its activation, about 10 to 15 team members have been actively involved in WCC efforts. It is staffed by representatives from several agencies. The four core agencies are: Job Service, Office of Management and Budget (particularly the Human Resource Management Services and Risk Management divisions), Department of Labor, and Workforce Safety and Insurance. There is also close coordination with the Department of Emergency Services, Department of Health, the ND University System and the ND National Guard.
The initial focus of the WCC was preparing for the Tier 3 hospital surge capacity. The focus then transitioned to growing capacity for the State’s Microbiology Lab and Contact Tracing. Now the WCC is responding to the needs of long-term care facilities while also helping state agencies build their teams for the long term.
To best succeed, the WCC needs to understand workforce needs as soon as possible. Although the WCC has access to several large databases of potential workers, it often takes a few days to find the right person, with the right skills, in the right location to fill a need.
If your agency or organization has increased workforce needs due to COVID-19, or staff who can help, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ndresponse.gov/help. To view current COVID-19 state openings, go to www.nd.gov/careers.
Compensation and Classification Update
In the Spring of 2019, OMB/Human Resource Management Services announced several developments regarding Compensation and Classification for the 2019-21 biennium. This included renewed opportunities to reward employees with performance-based increases, salary range increases combined with a simplified salary range structure, and a simplified classification format with increased flexibility. As we approach the second year of the biennium, here are some highlights of up-coming changes:
- The simplified classification format that OMB/Human Resource Management Services announced last year will be effective July 1, 2020. These changes involve translating the 850 current classifications into 16 job categories, each with five to seven defined levels. No change to current job duties or current pay will result from this classification simplification. A summary of the changes is available on this job classification change information sheet, and much more information is available in the FAQs on the OMB website. If you still have questions, you may contact HRMS or your agency’s human resources staff .
- New salary ranges for both years of the 2019-2021 biennium were proposed by OMB’s Human Resource Management Services and approved by the State Personnel Board last year. For the second year, the salary ranges will transition from 22 grade levels to 10 levels with broader salary ranges, to support the move to the simplified classification format. The revised salary ranges, which will be effective July 1, 2020, also incorporate a 2.7% average upward adjustment in the ranges compared to the first year.
- Finally, the legislature approved performance-based increases averaging 2.5% for the second year of the biennium. Unlike this past year, there will be no minimum or maximum amount for individual increases.
In addition to the quiet halls at the North Dakota State Capitol, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted some major changes to include the following:
- The suspension of Capitol tours.
- The cancellation of events at the Capitol.
- The limitation of public access to by appointment only.
- The Capitol Cafe closed.
- The addition of team member and citizen COVID-19 screening.
- Extra sanitation of surfaces in public areas.
There are traditionally two large events scheduled at the Capitol grounds during the summer that many citizens look forward to: the annual 4th of July fireworks display and Capital A’Fair in August. Please keep an eye on the OMB website for updates on these events as well as a complete list of other events.
ND State Capitol South Entrance Remodeling Project
The North Dakota State Capitol south entrance remodeling project has begun. This remodeling project will greatly enhance the North Dakota State Capitol building’s public entrance. The new design will remove the existing tunnel and drive lanes, leaving the front stairs and the overall aesthetics of the building intact. The design includes increased Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility, a lobby, an east-facing public entrance, and landscaping enhancements.
The Capitol Grounds Planning Commission (CGPC) chose the new design for the North Dakota State Capitol building’s south entrance remodel project at a meeting held on December 13, 2019. The North Dakota State Capitol south entrance remodel project should be completed by the end of the year.
Citizens accessing the Capitol by appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic will be asked to continue to use the west entrance.
South Capitol Grounds Sign Replacement Project Update
The south Capitol sign replacement project began back in September and will be complete once landscaping is done early this summer. The sign, located near Boulevard Avenue on the mall area of the North Dakota State Capitol grounds, is larger, composed of granite and limestone, and will be well-lit at night. The sign that was replaced had adorned the south Capitol mall area since the 1960s and was showing significant erosion and discoloration.