Oregon needs better planning to retain state workforce, auditors say

By Kyra Buckley (OPB)
March 1, 2024 2 p.m.

State government employs 45,000 workers across dozens of offices and agencies but lacks a centralized plan for maintaining the workforce

Oregon State Capitol building, May 18, 2021. The capitol was completed in 1938 and is topped with a gilded bronze statue of the Oregon Pioneer.

Oregon State Capitol building, May 18, 2021. The capitol was completed in 1938 and is topped with a gilded bronze statue of the Oregon Pioneer.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

The state of Oregon needs a robust strategy for training, managing and recruiting state employees, according to an audit released Thursday from Oregon’s secretary of state.


Oregon employs 45,000 people in state positions such as at the DMV, the employment department, state correctional facilities and at state parks — making the state itself the largest employer in Oregon. But auditors found that the state government lacks a statewide strategic workforce plan and doesn’t collect meaningful employee competency data despite having the technology to do so.

“Workforce planning outlines the day-to-day practices carried out through workforce management to ensure organizations have well-supported employees with the skills needed to fulfill broader mission, vision, and priorities,” auditors wrote in the report. “Oregon’s current workforce crises reflect the consequences of limited workforce planning and place public services and monies at risk.”

Related: Oregon audit finds poor accountability, lack of transparency for pharmacy benefit managers


Those crises reflect trends private employers have also expressed concern about, namely an aging workforce and employee burnout. More than a quarter of the state’s current employees have already hit retirement eligibility. Past audits of multiple different agencies have highlighted staffing shortages that can contribute to feelings of burnout.

Casey Kopcho, principal auditor for the Oregon secretary of state’s audit division, said a lot of states have a centralized strategic plan that tries to address those issues.

“That doesn’t solve everything,” Kopcho said, “But at least having a plan in place lets you know what to do when X, Y and Z happens. Oregon doesn’t have that plan — we just, quite simply, don’t have one.”

Related: Oregon auditors raise questions about millions of dollars in state agency spending

The auditors note that the state Department of Administrative Services does offer some structure and management assistance to agencies, but that agencies are inconsistent about engaging with the department.

“Managing a state workforce is a lofty task,” Kopcho said. “It’s a difficult task, and the people that do it are often working their very best, often, many hours, and often have a lot to do with very little.”

Auditors made six recommendations, including creating a strategic plan, collecting more meaningful data and clarifying agency roles in workforce development. The Department of Administrative Services agreed with the recommendations.