Classification Training at the Panama Canal

In the late fall, I had the great pleasure of delivering a 5-day classification workshop to the Human Resources staff of the Autoridad de Canal de  approximately 25 members of the HR staff of the Panama Canal Authority (formerly the Panama Canal Commission).  The Autoridad de Canal de Panama (the ACP – or Panama Canal Authority), acquired complete management and administration of the Canal from the US in 1999.

During the US government’s administration of the Canal, positions were managed using the US Federal human resources management system (Title 5).  The Panama Canal Zone, which managed the Canal, had both General Schedule positions and Federal Wage System (FWS) jobs.  Since the acquisition of the Canal, the ACP has continued to utilize the US Federal HR system (warts and all!) to manage its human resources.  The classification workshop was designed to present/refresh the ACP HR staff on classification theories, techniques and practices, including updates on current or proposed changes to the classification system, new standards development or changes, and an overview of position management.

There were 23 students in the class – ranging from senior management to entry-level specialists.  As we reviewed and discussed different classification concepts and applications, it was clear the ACP classification staff faces many of the same challenges US classifiers face every day, including significant workloads, grade creep, management and employee demands for upgrades, and union issues!  And they are challenged to implement a compensation system to address the organization’s rapidly changing needs, as the Canal expands services and builds a new lock to accommodate post-Panamax ships (large container and cruise ships too large for the current sets of locks).   Within these constraints, the HR staff is doing a super job in providing management with options regarding classification – while limiting grade creep and successfully addressing other classification program challenges.

Interested in HR training for your staff?  Custard Consulting LLC has “off the shelf” training ready for delivery in classification, pay setting, qualifications analysis, and position management.  All workshops can include training on the Federal Wage System!  Please feel free to contact Susan Custard at 360-852-8126 or susanc@custardconsulting.com for further information and references!