San Francisco Government Efficiency Initiative Speeds Up Hiring, Helps Fill Vacancies

Initiative run by City Administrator, Controller and Department of Human Resources also delivers improvements in speeding up contracting and financial operations
January 05, 2024

San Francisco, CA – A government efficiency operation launched by Mayor London N. Breed and led by the Office of the City Administrator, Controller, and Department of Human Resources (DHR) has led to significant improvements in hiring times over the last year and a half. In addition, this operation has improved contracting and financial operations, making City government more efficient and effective in delivering services for residents. 

The Government Operations Recovery Initiative (Gov Ops) Team consists of staff from the City Administrator, Controller and DHR working year-round on targeted initiatives to improve efficiencies.  

Hiring initiatives by Gov Ops have led to improvements compared to last year:

  • Nearly 50% increase in applicants for vacant City positions
  • More than 25% increase in hires made  
  • 25% decrease in time to fill vacant positions
  • Nearly 30% decrease in the vacancy rate  

This initiative has also led to a 50% decrease in the time needed for the Office of Contract Administration to review and approve departmental contracts for professional services, as well as other efficiency improvements in contracting and financial operations. In addition, the initiative has consolidated and provided greater transparency into future contracting opportunities for businesses to help them plan ahead.  

"Making government more efficient and effective requires constant focus and continued effort, often in areas that don’t get a lot of attention,” said Mayor London Breed. “We are working every day to overcome bureaucratic obstacles to deliver services faster and more reliably. I want to thank our City Administrator, Controller and Director of Human Resources, who have been leading these efforts. Thanks to their work and that of our City Departments, we are seeing improvements to our hiring, contracting and government operations, which means better service for our residents, workers and businesses.”    

“Over the last year, the Government Operations team has been working to identify and make changes to improve how we hire, buy goods and services and make payments,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “While these efforts may sound boring, they are core operational processes that are pain points for every department and have a huge cumulative impact on how we deliver public services. Each positive change, no matter how small, makes a difference—filling core vacancies faster, having the supplies and equipment you need to work, and making sure our vendors and employees are paid or reimbursed in a timely matter all adds up.”  

“It’s hard to overstate just how severely the City’s service delivery capabilities were affected by the public health emergency,” said Controller Ben Rosenfield. “Which is why partnering with City departments to implement dozens of improvements around streamlining hiring, contracting, and other serious process backlogs has been such a massive undertaking. Our work isn’t finished, but we should feel proud of the tangible progress we’ve made, which has had a positive impact on the City’s budget, and on people’s lives.”

“We are laser focused on reforming a system that was created over 120 years ago to better match the City’s contemporary needs,” said Director Carol Isen. “Through the Gov Ops collaboration, we have seen significant improvements in our hiring timeline and overall operations. We’re digitizing our processes, removing unnecessary barriers, and providing more flexibility for roles that are difficult to fill, all while maintaining the integrity of the merit system. There is more work to do, but the trends are all headed in the right direction — application volume is up, hiring volume is up, and time-to-hire is down — which means City employees are able to better support each other and the City is able to more effectively deliver services to San Francisco residents.”

 Key Hiring Improvements

Getting the word out. To ensure more potential candidates find out about our job opportunities and understand them, the Department of Human Resources is making strides to better market the City’s jobs. These include developing and launching a new career page, taking steps to ensure our job openings can easily be listed on major job websites, and providing guidance to departments on how to write effective job descriptions. These efforts are contributing to the 50% increase in applicants we’ve seen over the past year.

Launching continuous online testing and hiring. Candidates have more flexibility and are able to test and become qualified on a hiring list at more frequent intervals, rather than waiting for application closing deadlines and being required to attend mass in-person testing processes. City departments also benefit from active lists that are frequently refreshed with qualified and interested candidates.  

Automating reference checks. Prior to roll out, staff would manually call candidates for reference contacts and follow-up with those contacts to confirm and verify experience. Through new tools, candidates are automatically contacted and provided an online link to upload reference contact information and the system automatically contacts references to provide verification and information. Now, completion for references using this tool has averaged 30 hours compared to 5-10 days through a manual process.

Launching a Citywide analytics practice. In-line with modern employers—the City launched a People Analytics team to bring insights into the health of our hiring process. The City now has a host of dashboards that tell the story of our applications, hires, vacancies, time required to fill positions, and status of current recruitments. These dashboards better equip departments with the information they need to ensure that their hiring efforts are timely and on-track.

Additional hiring initiatives have centered around supporting hiring departments in other specific, high-priority classifications, including those in public safety and health.

Key Contracting and Financial Operations Improvements

Developed a single standardized online portal for contracting waivers and contract review/approval requests. This portal creates a clear checklist for the procurement process and provides real-time information on status of approvals. The new portal and business process changes have reduced OCA’s approval time by 50%.

Allow departments to split contracting staff time to increase efficiency through the Contract and Procurement Support (CAPS) team. This allows smaller Department to share contracting staff while benefiting from oversight from the City's central purchasing team.  This helps smaller departments with limited staff more effectively contract.  

Alert businesses to upcoming opportunities so they can plan ahead. In partnership with the Contract Monitoring Division, Gov Ops developed a consolidated one-stop-shop on that links possible vendors to procurement forecasts developed by major purchasing departments. Procurement forecasts help businesses understand what contracting opportunities may be coming so they can plan ahead. Gov Ops worked with OCA to create and publish their first-ever forecast for commodities and general services.

Sped up approvals and decreased burdens on employees in the City's financial operations, which yields faster results for City services. This includes reducing employee documentation requirements, reducing duplicative work and streamlining processes in City software for hiring, purchasing, and reimbursements, and securing legislative changes to loosen certain low-risk budgetary controls.