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OIG: Amtrak HR staff shortage creates hiring challenges


Amtrak's human resources department does not have sufficient leadership or staff to effectively recruit, screen, hire and onboard new employees, which will likely hinder the railroad’s plans to add 2,500 to 3,500 employees this fiscal year, an Amtrak Office of Inspector General (OIG) report last week found.

After reducing service and downsizing its workforce due to the pandemic, Amtrak now expects to build its current workforce by as much as 21% from June 2021 through October 2022 as pandemic restrictions are lifted and travel demand returns, OIG officials said in a press release.

The recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will further increase the railroad's need to add managers and workers with highly specialized skills in the engineering, mechanical and transportation departments to oversee and execute high-priority capital projects, according to the report.

As of October 2021, however, 28 of 64 positions in the HR department's talent acquisition group — the team dedicated to planning, recruiting, hiring and onboarding Amtrak’s management and agreement workers — were vacant. As a result, HR staff are taking on workloads double the industry standard, leading to burnout, causing hiring delays and diverting managers' attention from more strategic priorities.

Amtrak also faces difficulty competing for highly qualified talent acquisition candidates with other companies that offer more opportunities for remote work and greater schedule flexibility. In October 2021, three of five leadership positions in the talent acquisition group were vacant.

The railroad is reviewing options that could help address compensation disparities and make recruiting for HR executive positions easier. It has not, however, explored and developed meaningful solutions to address other competitive barriers, which could risk prolonged gaps in several key HR leadership functions.

The OIG recommended that Amtrak explore and develop solutions to address competitive barriers to attracting executive talent. Additionally, the OIG recommended that Amtrak fill the position responsible for overseeing third-party recruiting contracts.

To read the full report, click here.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/17/2021