With nearly a third of workers close to retirement, the Los Angeles Office of Finance was seeking new strategies for recruitment and retention of staff, not only to bring in qualified employees but also to build a pipeline within the department of leaders who feel a sense of stewardship over the city and its finances. FUSE Executive Fellow David Underwood directed the development of an overarching recruitment and retention strategy for the office. When faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Finance had to suspend hiring and shift operations to a nearly 100 percent virtual environment while maintaining all of its core functions. During this time, David also switched gears to help the office develop innovative approaches to supporting COVID-19 recovery efforts for residents and enhancing leadership resilience.

To help the office with recruitment and retention, David created a set of focused tools and training and developed recruiting strategies for improved interactions with universities and the private industry. Among other enhancements, he also helped improve how the office recruits, selects, and onboards candidates. During the COVID-19 crisis, he designed and implemented an innovation challenge, which asked employees how they can better serve taxpayers as they recover from the pandemic; the challenge yielded 45 new ideas, including support for a move to agile development and the creation of an internal leadership academy. Employee engagement also increased from 27 percent in 2019 to 88 percent during the challenge.