The state Capitol

Gov. Scott Walker's administration says state agencies have filled job openings more quickly, received more applications for openings and become more reliant on a resume-based hiring process after changes were made in 2016 to the state civil service system.

JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration says agencies have fielded more applications for job openings, filled them more quickly and become more reliant on a resume-based hiring process after changes were made in 2016 to the state civil service system.

The information comes from a new report by the state Division of Personnel Management, a human resources agency created by Walker and the Republican-led Legislature in 2015. It’s based on data from 2014 through the third quarter of 2017.

Among its findings:

  • The average number of days to fill job openings, per quarter, was lower after the law took effect in July 2016. It decreased to about 68 days from job announcement publication to hiring, compared to about 87 days before the law.
  • The average number of applications received for job openings per quarter increased after the law was signed — 29,927 after the law took effect, compared to 23,514 before it.
  • As intended, the law has caused resumes to become the preferred first step of the state hiring process — largely replacing civil service exams. After the law took effect, resumes were the initial assessment method for about two-thirds of all job openings. Before the law, the majority of openings were filled with exams being the first step.

The finding that state hiring has been expedited under the changes undercuts a critique made before the changes took effect by an official in Walker’s own administration. An unsigned memo from the Division of Personnel Management from October 2015, just after the civil service bill was introduced, warned it could actually slow hiring, according to records obtained by the State Journal in 2016.

The civil service law was signed by Walker in early 2016 and took effect in July of that year. It ties layoffs from state agencies more closely to job performance instead of seniority, extends probationary time for new hires, outlines specific “just cause” offenses for which employees can be immediately terminated, and centralizes the hiring process within the Department of Administration.

Walker and legislative Republicans viewed the controversial civil service law as critical to modernizing hiring, firing and disciplinary practices in the state workforce. The law’s Senate author, Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, said it was needed to streamline the state hiring system and allow employees to be hired more efficiently.

Democrats and labor groups opposed the changes, saying they could lead to cronyism in state hiring.

The state’s civil service system was implemented in 1905 under Gov. Robert La Follette to curb political patronage in state hiring. With elements such as an objective hiring exam and a “just-cause” requirement to fire workers, it was meant to prevent state jobs from being doled out as favors to political allies.