Karin O’Leary Nomination

Karin O\'Leary, with the Department of Justice, was nominated for a Causey Award for the new recruitment processes she developed to improve employee retention.

Editor’s Note: Winners of the Causey Awards were nominated by their peers for their outstanding achievements and important contributions to the Human Capital Management field in 2009. Nominators were asked to answer various questions about the nominee including, how did this person go above and beyond in 2009 and what is the impact of this person’s work? Their answers have been posted below. To see the complete list of Causey Award winners click here.

As the Director of Budget for the Department of Justice (DOJ), Karin serves as the principal budget expert for the Department. She is responsible for the development and execution of a budget of over $30 billion, and the operational responsibilities that are at the core of executing one of the nation’s largest public sector budgets. She directs the preparation of the department’s budget, presents the request to the Office of Management and Budget and to Congress. She makes critical resource recommendations to the Attorney General and senior policy staff, as well as ensuring that congressional appropriations are spent according to the law and regulations.

Karin leads a staff of 60 employees, augmented at various periods with detailees and graduate interns with a wide range of backgrounds. The budget analysts range from entry level to expert. The staff varies in terms of their work experience in the department and on criminal justice issues. Each employee requires unique management attention — from the more hands-on coaching required for the entry and mid-level analysts and detailees to the higher-level advisory role required for seasoned analysts and supervisors.

During FY 2009, despite financial constraints, Karin was focused on creating an optimal workforce staffed with the right mix of talented, proactive career oriented people. Karin’s priority was building a strong workforce and building the staff for the future. Karin undertook a number of initiatives in which she spent considerable time investing in her staff to create a high performance work team. Specifically in FY 2009 she focused on: identification of the organization’s strengths and areas that needed improvement; implementation of new recruitment processes; and revitalization of retention efforts.

IMPACT: Karin directed the implementation of two satisfaction surveys in order to identify areas of strength and those that needed improvement. She used the Office of Personnel Management’s survey as a model for the development of a Budget Staff customer and job satisfaction survey.

The first Budget Staff survey instrument solicited feedback from her customers, the department’s budget officers, in order to gauge satisfaction. Areas identified for improvement were: increased advocacy for the components and improvements in component program knowledge. As a result, Karin committed to addressing these issues by instituting the regular distribution of funds control tracking information and requesting program briefings by components for Budget Staff analysts.

The second Budget Staff survey, the Employee Satisfaction Survey, enabled Karin to obtain Budget Staff-wide feedback and gauge employee satisfaction. Each staff member had a chance to provide meaningful feedback and suggestions on a variety of topics, such as training, development, work-life balance, and management. Karin reviewed the feedback and implemented solutions to address various issues. The net result is that the majority of Budget Staff management and staff respondents agreed that workload balance has improved, office communication has improved, and team building activities instituted have created a stronger more cohesive and effective office.

During the past year, Karin instituted new efforts that improved the recruitment process for new Budget Staff employees. She developed the Budget Staff’s Federal Career Experience Program (FCIP). The program provided a broad applicant pool of outstanding candidates who want to work in federal budgeting. This recruitment investment has the potential to improve the staff for years to come.

To date, Karin hired three budget analysts using the FCIP authorities which helped alleviate an overburdened staff workload. Another of Karin’s FY 2009 accomplishments was the updating of the Budget Staff’s Succession Plan. Karin had prepared the initial Succession Plan in 2005. The FY 2009 Succession Plan provides a roadmap for career development and advancement in the Department’s Budget Staff thereby encouraging the retention of highly qualified staff. The plan provides a framework for 1) providing necessary training and development opportunities to Budget Staff employees; and 2) ensuring that qualified individuals will be available from within the Budget staff to compete for supervisory/management positions.

As the Department of Justice Budget Staff’s Director, Karin effectively and expertly leads one of the busiest staffs within the department. Karin requires excellence from the staff in quality, content and timeliness, which she balances with her support of staff recruitment, retention, development and training. She continually counsels staff on career tracks; establishes details and other developmental assignments; and developed and implemented an effective recruitment strategy to get the best and the brightest analysts to join the Department.

Karin’s strongest asset is her advocacy and commitment to the budget analyst field of discipline and, in particular, the work of the Budget Staff. Karin’s dedication, enthusiasm, and strong leadership and focus on human capital arena in FY 2009, culminated in building and retaining a strong workforce while simultaneously building the staff for the future. Karin ensured that one percent of salary dollars were budgeted for training in FY 2009. Training courses were approved consistent with an employee’s Individual Development Plan, as well as the Staff-wide training plan. The FY 2009 amount obligated for staff training was a 29 percent increase over FY 2008.

In addition, she identified several free training courses and seminars for the staff. As a result, 100% of the staff completed at least one training course during FY 2009. Karin is continually focused on, and actively works towards, developing the next generation of budget and program analysts. She serves as a mentor for two budget analysts who work in DOJ component budget offices. Karin holds regular management staff meetings each week to promote effective communication within the staff.

In addition, Karin is seriously committed to acknowledging the accomplishments of her staff. She regularly conducts recognition ceremonies and provides Special Act awards and Years of Service awards during monthly All Hands Meetings.

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