OPM launches employee survey initiative to update job competency models

The Office of Personnel Management is relaunching an initiative to better gauge what skills and competencies the workforce needs to best perform across a variety of federal jobs, and it’s going right to the source for feedback.

The agency on Friday announced a new Federal Workforce Competency Initiative (FWCI), which will survey federal employees about their own experiences on the job.

“The FWCI is an opportunity for OPM and your agency to work together to identify the competencies most important for success and provides critical data needed to continue building the foundation for effective human capital management across the federal government,” Kathleen McGettigan, OPM’s acting director, said Friday in a memo to agencies.

To gather data and feedback on the skills, abilities and characteristics needed to perform a specific job, OPM will survey federal employees and supervisors in more than 350 targeted occupations.

Employees who work in the targeted occupations will receive an email with an invitation to take the survey. It will include questions about the employee’s background with the job, competencies the employee believes are needed for the position and tasks they perform at their agencies. The survey will also include questions about the employee’s race and gender.

Supervisors will receive their own survey with similar questions, OPM said. The agency said it anticipates sending the survey to about 350,000 employees.

A random sample of employees will receive surveys starting April 26, and they’ll stay open for three weeks. Future surveys will focus on technical competencies for specific jobs, OPM said.

OPM will use the survey results to develop and update competency models, which it and other agencies may use for workforce planning, training and development, performance management, recruitment and hiring activities.

“With these competency models serving as the foundation for many human capital initiatives it is critical that the competencies are supported with data from employees and supervisors with first hand knowledge of the day to day work being done,” OPM said in a fact sheet on the initiative.

OPM said the feedback will help it develop a common language to describe basic job requirements across government, and it’ll eliminate the need for agencies to collect their own data and analysis.

Perhaps most notably, the initiative will help agencies provide consistent messaging about how candidates are chosen, trained and evaluated, OPM said.

The agency has done similar competency reviews in the past using the Multipurpose Occupational Systems Analysis Inventory — Closed-ended (MOSAIC) methodology, which dates back to the 1990s. But many of those reviews are more than a decade old.

“The data collected in the original studies, covering hundreds of occupations, needs updating to support continued use,” the agency said.

OPM finished a competency model for cybersecurity positions and IT program management in 2011. Other models are older and date back to the mid-2000s.

OPM said the new competency model initiative will build on and update the data it collected during previous reviews.

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