With final HR policy rewrite, future annual viewpoint surveys are about to get shorter

The Office of Personnel Management’s long-awaited overhaul to federal human resources policy is out.

According to the final rule,  agencies will have fewer reporting requirements to follow. Instead, they’ll use other practices that “align human capital management practices to broader agency strategic planning activities and better align human capital activities with an agency’s mission and strategic goals.”

OPM last revised these policies in 2008, when it set up the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework. The agency promised a rewrite back in 2013.

The overall goal of the new policy is to help agencies be more strategic about human capital management planning and embed those strategies into their organizations’ missions.

Specifically, it asks agencies to develop a talent management system that encourages them to plan and manage workforce needs, improve and streamline recruiting and hiring practices and close skills gaps.

Performance culture is another focus that “engages, develops and inspires a diverse, high-performing workforce by creating, implementing and maintaining effective performance management strategies, practices and activities that support mission objectives,” the rule said.

The new policy also includes changes to the way agencies collect and report human capital data.

Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey

The final rule includes a few significant changes to the annual workforce survey OPM administers.

Federal employees may notice future Federal Employee Viewpoint Surveys look a little different from previous years’ editions.

The survey will be shorter, requiring 16 questions instead of 45.

Each agency can include additional survey questions specific to its particular organization and mission, OPM said.

“We’ve made some changes that are intended to both preserve continuity — there’s a set of core questions — but also to allow flexibility as management practices change and as agency leaders need different opportunities to look at different things,” acting OPM Director Beth Cobert said during a Dec. 15 speech at the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work event.

The goal, the agency said, was to develop a survey with stronger, more relevant and less ambiguous questions.

The 2017 survey won’t look too different from this year’s review, Cobert said.

Agencies must post the results of each annual survey on their website, along with an analysis of the responses and a description of the employee sample.

OPM issued a proposed rule in February that detailed the changes the agency wanted to make to the survey. OPM initially included 11 mandatory questions in the proposed rule but added five more to the final edition:

  • I believe the results of this survey will be used to make my agency a better place to work.
  • Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization?
  • Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job?
  • I can disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal.
  • I recommend my organization as a good place to work.

Some members of Congress earlier this year took issue with OPM’s push to eliminate some questions from the survey and said a drastic change was “unnecessary.”

“Should OPM stop asking key survey questions in the future, it interferes with our ability to compare future employee responses to historical trends,” leadership on the House Oversight and Government Reform, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs Committees said in a Nov. 15 letter to Cobert.

Lawmakers said they also worried that requiring fewer questions in the annual survey would undermine their ability to oversee and help the federal workforce.

Fewer reporting requirements

The new rule replaces the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework with the Human Capital Framework (HCF), which puts fewer reporting requirements on agencies.

For example, agencies are no longer required to submit a strategic human capital plan or annual Human Capital Management Reports.

Instead, agencies must develop a Human Capital Operating Plan and participate in annual, in-person reviews with OPM.

“The revised rule affords agencies, in discussions with OPM, to collaboratively review agencies’ progress toward achieving their specific goals while providing a mechanism for OPM to identify cross-cutting and agency-specific human capital challenges that warrant further attention,” the rule said.

OPM has its own requirement to issue a “quadrennial federal workforce priorities” report. It’s designed to serve as a tool for the Chief Human Capital Officers Council and a tool to help agencies think about and prepare for in their strategic operating plans.

The first report is expected in mid-2017, OPM said in the final rule.

HRStat

As pilots have hinted in the past, agencies will soon be required to conduct HRStat reviews on a quarterly basis.

HRStat helps agencies better root out human resources data and trends and use them to evaluate their performance.

The chief human capital officer will collaborate with agency performance improvement officers to lead the reviews and monitor progress in implementing human capital goals.

“Review sessions allow agency leadership to identify and focus on human capital metrics that will inform the achievement of an agency’s human capital goals and mission,” the rule said. “The quarterly sessions allow for prompt course correction, if necessary, to ensure progress.”

The final rule itself includes few other details on the HRStat reviews because OPM plans to issue more guidance on specific maturity models and metrics some time in the future, the agency said.

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