A new way for senior executives to get professional recognition

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The Senior Executives Association has launched a first-ever awards program for its members, federal senior executives. The thinking is, the Presidential Rank Awards program is fine as far as it goes. But it leaves many worthy people unrecognized. Joining Federal Drive with Tom Temin with more on the program, SEA President Bob Corsi.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: Bob, good to have you back.

Bob Corsi: Thank you for having me.

Tom Temin: Tell us about this program. What is the genesis of it and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

Bob Corsi: Well, it was about a year ago when our board of directors made the decision that it was long overdue for SEA to have its own awards program. We looked out there at what we had, and as you mentioned, Presidential Rank Awards was very limited. And then we also looked at what other awards were out there. And then you had the SAMMIES, but again, very limited in terms of the individuals that actually submitted or were submitted for those types of awards. So we thought it was about time that we have our own awards program. And what we were looking for is we wanted to recognize all the senior civilians in equivalence. So it’d be not only the Senior Executive Service, but senior leaders, senior scientific, and also those that are equivalents throughout the agencies. And we wanted to make sure that the award looked at the achievements that embodied what SEA is mission driven expectations were for meritorious federal executive professional service. We want them to recognize executive exemplary, executive leadership and outstanding professional performance on a major project with agency or department-wide impact that clearly exceeded the expectations in the agencies. We wanted to start off small. So we looked at starting with three specific categories of award for our first go. The first was for Outstanding Senior Executive Professional of the Year Award, and reception of this award would recognize for outstanding overall contribution and fundamental advancement in their particular field and functional responsibility. And all of this was for the previous calendar year. We also wanted to have award that recognize the Spirit of Excellence in diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. Recipients of this award are recognized for outstanding work in diversity, equity, inclusion, to include efforts combating sexual harassment in the workplace, and making a functional area or agency more inclusive and diverse, again, for the previous fiscal year or calendar year. We then wanted to have an award that recognized lifetime achievement. So the third one was for a Senior Executive Professional Lifetime Achievement Award. And recipients of this are recognized for sustained excellence over the career of the employee. And this is primarily reserved for employees that are eligible for or pending retirement. So those are the three categories of awards that we establish.

Tom Temin: And will there be more than one person in each of those categories or is that just the one per, so three people this year?

Bob Corsi: We’re looking at three people this year.

Tom Temin: Got it. And how are you getting the word out to the agencies? I mean, who can nominate, let’s start there. And how you how are you going to promulgate it so that you get nominations?

Bob Corsi: So we started the process already, in terms of starting to go out through the networks and going on in other forms of media, announcing the award. We’re also going to have the process of announcing it to the CHCOs. We’ve already shared it with with OPM that we were doing this. But in January, we hope to do kind of a full blitz going out to all the CHCOs, going out with formal announcements to the agency announcing the award with the criteria. And we’ll do that during the month of January

Tom Temin: Who can make a nomination for this?

Bob Corsi: So any agency or department can nominate the individual. Again, it has to go through that agency chain, and we’re expecting that the head of the agency or a designated representative within the agency would be submitting the nomination of that individual.

Tom Temin: We’re speaking with Bob Corsi, president of the Senior Executives Association. And how will the nominees be judged?

Bob Corsi: We’ll have the period for the nomination period open from January through the end of April. So we’ll close it out, say on the first of May. We have a committee that would be established, the chairman of the board would establish a committee of three of our board members. And we will possibly tap some of our members of our distinguished Executive Advisory Network. Those are SEA members that have previously received Presidential Rank Awards. That could be part of that committee. And they will go through the process and they will have to determine the criteria to evaluate everybody and make recommendations to the board of directors as to their selection. Timewise, we would expect the announcement of the winners to be in the October timeframe.

Tom Temin: Got it. And if someone is already a presidential rank recipient in any of the years past, does that pretty much rule them out for these awards?

Bob Corsi: It rules them out if they received it within the past five years.

Tom Temin: And the Presidential Rank Awards program for the meritorious and the presidential rank, they come with a nice piece of change, a certain percentage of your salary. That’s pretty good. Will there be any kind of cash award for this or is this going to be the Lucite statue?

Bob Corsi: Well, it will be a very nice embossed certificate. And if they’re not a member of SEA, we’ll give them a complimentary membership for a year. No, there’s no big money involved.

Tom Temin: But do you expect to have some form of backup or recognition from OPM that you mentioned, you cleared it with them, or the White House? Would you like to get a little bit of, I don’t know, let’s say acknowledgement from the higher ups?

Bob Corsi: I mean, that would be nice, but they have the Presidential Rank Awards. And we just hope that, and they have, they’ve announced it, and we just hope that the White House does right for all of those PRA award winners, but we don’t see that as part of our recognition.

Tom Temin: Therefore, there’s no corporate sponsors or that type of thing, like say the SAMMIES has big money behind it?

Bob Corsi: No, we’re not looking at that, not for this first go round. I mean, it may build over time. But initially, we just see it, as we just discussed, it’s going to be the certificate and the one year membership,

Tom Temin: And is your sense among members that you’ve heard from that this is a good thing, they’re glad to see this?

Bob Corsi: The sensing is it’s long overdue. And also, you have small agencies that don’t have necessarily the money to submit their good candidates for a Presidential Rank Award, because the organization has to be able to pay out those larger awards. So we’re hoping that for those small departments and agencies, that they now have an opportunity to get their individuals recognized.

Tom Temin: Yeah, that’s a good point, the White House is happy to give out the Presidential Rank Awards, but they don’t pay for the awards, the agency does.

Bob Corsi: The agency has to make sure that they have the money. And it’s normally paid in that last month of the fiscal year when people are normally trying just to get to the end of the year. So yeah, the money will not be involved.

Tom Temin: So in some ways, this is more of like a peer to peer type of award, you might say?

Bob Corsi: It is. But again, it’s also it’s that recognition. I mean, when you talk about the PRA, you know the numbers, the max is like 5% for meritorious, 1% for the distinguished. And if you look at the number of SESs, that could probably be somewhere in the area of about 400. But as you well know, the recent release of the awards, they’re recognizing 230 of those. So it’s about half of the maximum that are allowed. We’re looking forward to a great number of submissions and we’re hoping that we can build on this in the future.

Tom Temin: Well we’re glad to help you get the word out. Bob Corsi is president of the Senior Executives Association. Thanks so much.

Bob Corsi: Alright Tom, thanks a lot for having me.

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