OPM urges ‘strong preference’ for candidates with interagency experience

Two new memos from the Office of Personnel Management provide guidance for agencies to give "strong preference" to certain candidates for national security seni...

New memos from the Office of Personnel Management encourage agencies to give “strong preference” to  national security senior executive candidates who’ve completed interagency rotations, and outlines how employees and managers can get the most out of that experience under the National Security Professional Development program.

In the preference guidance from OPM acting Director Beth Cobert, agencies are encouraged when filling senior positions within an Interagency Community of Interest, to give “a strong preference to individuals who have performed interagency rotational service” within that community.

Someone who has that experience has “served in a leadership capacity (formal or otherwise) on a temporary or permanent assignment, on a multi-agency task force, in an inter-agency liaison capacity, and/or as a volunteer,” the memo states.

This person would also have experience in at least two organizations or a single experience within multiple organizations, the guidance states, and be able to demonstrate involvement and accomplishments during that experience.

The agencies are also required to provide opportunities for employees to get this type of interagency experience, the guidance says, “to ensure a sufficient pool of qualified individuals is available to make sure resulting selections are merit-based and avoid the appearance of pre-selection.”

On rotation

For those who are interested in becoming a candidate that’s strongly preferred — or an agency that hosts these types of candidates — the rotational guidance lays out requirements and responsibilities for the home and host agency, and the participating employee.

The memo states that an employee participating in a rotation will work with both their home supervisor and their host manager to ensure communication between both agencies remains open. The participant also must complete rotation goals identified in the performance plan and let their home agency know if any problems arise.

The home agency, in turn, must continue to support the employee during their rotation and also “support the participant’s transition back to the home agency.”

The office hosting the rotation needs to create “developmental assignments, tasks, and duties,” and provide performance reviews and regular feedback to the participant.

“To achieve a high-performance culture, supervisors must be empowered and encouraged to regularly and effectively engage their employees in all stages and aspects of their employment,” the memo states. “This will ensure leaders support the success and growth of employees, including frequently participating in dialogues with employees to understand their needs and issues relating to work, as well as providing opportunities for employees to apply their strengths and further develop their knowledge and skills. By achieving a high-performance culture, agencies will best accomplish their missions and also serve as model employers that optimize the hiring, management, and retention of top talent.”

The guidance outlines the general requirements for the NSPD program, such as rotations will run for 120 days, but assignments may be extended another four months. Participating agencies may also decide whether the rotation is reimbursable.

The two memos are in line with a Jan. 12 memo, in which Cobert encouraged managers to adopt a new philosophy called “Performance Management Plus.”

“Plus” refers to the employee, and “emphasizes the establishment of a high-performance culture” help agencies meet their mission and manage employees.

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