NAO 202-1103: NOAA Workforce Planning Policy

Issued 10/09/07; Effective 09/28/07; Reviewed Last: In Process

NAO 202-1103: NOAA Workforce Planning Policy PDF


This Order establishes the policy and procedures for conducting workforce planning activities in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


Authority is provided by the Government Employees Training Act (5 U.S.C. Chapter 41), Executive Order 11348, the Chief Human Capital Officers Act [5 U.S.C. 1103(c)], and 5 CFR 250.203.


NOAA senior leadership is committed to building a future workforce that supports its strategic direction. In support of this commitment, all NOAA offices shall undertake competency-based workforce planning activities to systematically identify human capital needs. This planning will ensure that NOAA is able to recruit, develop, and maintain its workforce with the competencies required for mission success. The intent of this policy is to ensure, across the organization, regular, ongoing, and consistent workforce planning efforts that support NOAA's strategic mission.


For the purposes of this Order, the following definitions apply.

a. Workforce planning is the strategic alignment of an organization's human capital with its business direction. This is accomplished by determining future workforce needs, analyzing the current workforce, identifying the gaps between the present workforce and future needs, and implementing solutions to close such gaps, so the organization can accomplish its mission, goals, and objectives.

b. Workforce Planning Implementation Reports detail the goals, processes, activities, milestones, etc, associated with an office's workforce planning efforts, and are updated to reflect the results of plan implementation.

c. Human capital is the collective knowledge, experience, and attributes of employees that they choose to invest in their workplace.

d. Competencies are a measurable pattern of knowledge, skills, behaviors, and other characteristics an individual needs to excel in work roles or occupational functions.

e. Knowledge identifies the bodies of information applied directly to the performance of a function.

f. Skills identify the developed capacities needed to perform a set of related tasks or activities.

g. Foundational competencies are the knowledge and skills important across all occupations in an organization.

h. Competency gaps are areas in which the knowledge and skills possessed by the workforce do not meet the requirements of an organization.

i. Mission-critical competencies are the knowledge and skills that will most directly influence the ability of the workforce to meet mission requirements.

j. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are individuals who possess a broad knowledge of, and expertise in, a particular area of work.


.01 NOAA Executive Leadership is composed of the NOAA Executive Council (NEC) and the NOAA Executive Panel (NEP). They assist the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere ("the Under Secretary"), the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, and the Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere in setting NOAA's strategic direction. Executive leadership shall:

a. set workforce planning priorities that support NOAA's strategic goals; and

b. provide adequate resources to carry out NOAA's workforce planning priorities and efforts.

.02 The NOAA Workforce Management Office (WFMO) shall:

  • serve as the main point of contact for workforce planning efforts at NOAA and for coordination with the Department of Commerce;
  • establish basic requirements for workforce planning across NOAA, provide education and technical assistance, and serve as a repository for NOAA-wide best practices in human capital management;
  • review and approve the Workforce Planning Implementation Reports and results of NOAA Line/Staff Offices' (LO/SOs) competency modeling efforts for consistency with the basic requirements;
  • identify and maintain the NOAA Foundational Competency list and NOAA Management and Leadership Model, which are to be used as starting-points for all competency-based workforce planning efforts;
  • coordinate competency modeling efforts that span boundaries and ensure that the full range of activities required for the position is identified and considered by the model;
  • review/approve Statements of Work for proposed contracts for workforce planning to ensure consistency with NOAA policy; and
  • participate as a member on evaluation panels if contractor services are required.

.03 The Human Capital Council shall:

a. serve as the principal forum through which issues affecting strategic human capital management across NOAA are discussed and addressed; this includes serving as an advisory body to the WFMO for workforce planning efforts.

.04 The Workforce Management Committee shall provide advice and assistance to the WFMO with regard to workforce planning implementation.

.05 Line Offices/Staff Offices (LO/SOs) shall:

  • conduct systematic competency-based workforce planning in consultation with NOAA Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution System (PPBES) Program Managers as appropriate, using the NOAA Foundational Competency list and Management and Leadership Competency Model as guides;
  • submit to the WFMO, within timeframes set in conjunction with the Human Capital Council, a competency-based Workforce Implementation Report for approval prior to implementation;
  • submit to the WFMO, for review and approval, results of workforce planning efforts, as stated in the Workforce Implementation Report;
  • conduct routine reviews of, as well as continually reassess, competency models and emerging workforce trends in conjunction with the established cycle for revisions to the NOAA Strategic Plan;
  • coordinate with the WFMO and other offices to ensure all positions within an occupation are considered in the Workforce Implementation Report;
  • obtain approval from the WFMO for Statements of Work for contracts related to workforce planning;
  • include a representative from the WFMO on contractor evaluation panels; and
  • for SOs only, coordinate competency modeling for their function NOAA-wide.

.06 NOAA PPBES Program Managers shall:

  • contribute to LO/SO workforce planning efforts as subject matter experts;
  • identify significant changes in workforce competency requirements arising from future program revisions; and
  • anticipate the application of emerging technologies or impacts due to other external factors on their programs occurring in the out-years.


The NOAA workforce planning process is based on the design, validation, and application of competency models. Wherever appropriate, LO/SOs should consider work being done by contractors, Intergovernmental Personnel Agreements (IPAs), and Cooperative Agreement employees when identifying competencies in order to capture the full range of competencies available/required in the workforce.

a. Competency models for positions within NOAA must consist of both knowledges and skills, conform with the format in the NOAA Workforce Planning Design Document (see the Attachment to this Order), and be created using the following general process unless an alternative approach is approved by the WFMO:

  1. use SMEs from each occupation/role for which a competency model is being created to identify all competencies (i.e., skills and knowledges) required of the occupation/role, incorporating the NOAA Foundational Competency list;
  2. identify the tasks that exemplify each skill in the model (e.g., the Partnering skill includes tasks such as "Incorporate partner feedback into plans and activities" and "Manage partner expectations by providing realistic information and estimates");
  3. develop requirements for each competency (these requirements define the level of proficiency for each competency and make it possible to identify and close the gaps that exist between the workforce's current and desired competency levels); and
  4. empirically validate the model through the collection of job analytic data from a sample of incumbents in the occupation. b. The workforce planning methodology for the organization ensures consistent planning efforts throughout NOAA. Each LO/SO should consult with WFMO in regard to this design prior to engaging in competency-based workforce planning.


A four-step process is used to develop the competency-based workforce plan.

a. Collaborate with the WFMO to collect assessments of all employees in an occupation using validated competency models. Assessments may include, but are not limited to, self-assessments, supervisor assessments, and assessment centers. These assessments provide the Office with data describing the current competency levels within the workforce.

b. Analyze the assessment data to identify gaps between the workforce's current competency levels and the required levels.

c. Prioritize the gaps to be reduced and eliminated. Gaps identified as mission-critical in conjunction with the NOAA Strategic Plan should be given priority.

d. Implement strategies to close gaps. The WFMO may aid LO/SOs with strategy identification and implementation. Possible strategies include:

  1. training, development, or other learning opportunities;
  2. hiring new employees with the required competencies;
  3. planning for the retention of employees with critical skills;
  4. succession plans to fill key positions;
  5. job/work process redesign; and
  6. assigning employees to organizations where their skills are best utilized (re-deployment).




Acting Under Secretary of Commerce
for Oceans and Atmosphere

Office of Primary Interest:
National Marine Fisheries Service
Office of Management and Budget