OPM workforce goals in 2015: Mentorship for SES, engagement for agencies

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

The Office of Personnel Management already has some New Year’s resolutions for the federal workforce: Set up a governmentwide mentorship program for the Senior Executive Service and establish an employee engagement point person for every agency.

OPM’s plans for January 2015 reflect President Barack Obama’s call for reform within the Senior Executive Service and emerging trends from this year’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS).

By Jan. 23, OPM expects every agency to select a Senior Accountable Official who will oversee improvements in employee engagement and serve as a liaison for OPM, the Office of Management and Budget and the White House Presidential Personnel Office.

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Likely SAO candidates include performance officers, chief operating officers, chiefs of staff, or chief human capital officers.

In a memo, the leadership at OMB, OMB and PPO agreed on improving agency performance by changing the employee engagement culture at offices that scored poorly on the Employee Viewpoint Survey.

“Currently, agency results in the Employee Engagement Index vary widely across and within agencies including among organizations that perform similar functions,” the memo said.

NASA, the Federal Trade Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission continue to have the most engaged employees, according to the latest EVS results. But at agencies with some of the least engaged employees — including the Departments of Homeland Security and Housing and Urban Development — OPM and OMB found that employees didn’t feel as though their feedback would result in change at their workplace.

In a recent address to the SES, President Obama acknowledged that the federal workforce needs to catch up to the private sector when it comes to implementing changes based on employee feedback.

“One of the things that we know in the private sector about continuous improvement is you’ve got to have the folks right there on the front lines able to make suggestions and know that they’re heard, and to not simply be rewarded for doing an outstanding job, but to see their ideas implemented in ways that really make a difference.”

The SES mentorship program, announced in a memo by OPM director Katherine Archuleta, will connect new federal executives with experienced mentors.

“The Situational Mentoring program will benefit mentors and mentees by greatly expanding networks and increasing collaboration across agency lines,” Archuleta said in the memo.”

The program is meant to supplement President Obama’s plan to have potential managers work in rotational assignments at different agencies before bringing those skills back to their home agencies.

“We want great ideas to spread. We want people to get new experiences that reenergize them, reinvigorate them,” Obama said the meeting with the SES. “We want those ideas to cross-pollinate across the agencies.”

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