Carol Bonosaro, President, Senior Executives Association

“Hope” is a critical word for the senior executive service going into 2015, according to Senior Executives Association President Carol Bonosaro. That hope stems from President Barack Obama’s recent address to the SES and his management agenda. But reality might stand in the way of financial and management progress at your agency. She shared her Top 3 for 2015 on In Depth with Francis Rose. Bonosaro expects low morale to continue because of a not-so-new Congress.

  1. The beatings will continue until morale improves: We’re all looking ahead to a tough year in Congress for the federal workforce, which will likely be viewed again as the proverbial federal piggybank as lawmakers consider changes to federal benefits. From my perspective, however, what is especially worrisome is the proclivity to pound on the career Senior Executive Service and to base legislative proposals on a “guilty until proven innocent” basis, which is making it even less attractive as an option for talented, experienced GS-14s and 15s. Especially of concern is the VA SES “at will” statute, which has made firing of Senior Executives in that department even easier than before by limiting their appeal rights, which weren’t so great to begin with. It’s entirely possible that the provision will be considered for extension to other agencies or even to the SES governmentwide, at which point Congress might as well make all career SES positions political. The question is: Will the Administration fight back?
  2. Employee engagement is the administration’s theme: The President’s management agenda includes a focus on employee engagement, partly due to concern over the fact that employee engagement scores have been declining across the federal government over the last several years. A recent OPM/OMB/White House Presidential Personnel memo will make SES accountable for their organizations’ employee engagement through the SES performance management system. Several agencies have employed effective techniques to engage their employees and may be looked to for “best practices.” But how much improvement can we expect and how quickly? Will leaders at all levels be engaged in this process? Will the administration consider indicators other than EVS scores? Or will this effort eventually fizzle as this administration comes to a close?
  3. Continuing pressure to do more with less, or the same with less: Over the last five (if not more) years, many agencies have faced serious challenges in meeting their missions due to sequestration and other budget-cutting measures. Witness just two recent examples: VA Secretary McDonald cites the need for 28,000 medical personnel and increased responsibilities for the Secret Service without a corresponding increase in resources. An analysis by Bloomberg Government shows the impact of sequestration on federal agencies. Measures to improve management and productivity will go just so far. Eventually people are needed to provide services, infrastructure must be maintained, training must be provided, and much more. Or, we must lower our expectations of government.

In our special radio report, Top 3 for 2015, federal experts tell In Depth host Francis Rose what top three concepts, trends or priorities they believe will be important in 2015.

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