Agencies on a 4-month deadline to develop SES rotation plans

Agencies have new guidance for rotating more Senior Executive Service members from the Office of Personnel Management. The rotational requirement is part of an ...

Agencies have until May 31 to submit 2-year plans to add more rotational assignments among their Senior Executive Service members, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.

It’s the first guidance from OPM that addresses the new requirements agencies have to recruit, retain and develop senior executives, under an executive order that President Barack Obama signed last December.

One major action requires agencies to develop plans to rotate more SES members to other agencies, subcomponents and funcational areas. It specifically applies to agencies who have 20 or more SES positions, the guidance said.

Rotations should last at least 120 days, OPM said. An executive can transfer to another subcomponent, area or location within the same agency or temporarily move to another agency entirely, if the rotation complies with the Intergovernmental Personnel Act program. SESers could also consider a sabbatical, rotation to the private sector or a full-time assignment on an interagency or joint task force.

OPM would like to see 15 percent of SES members governmentwide on a rotational assignment by the beginning of fiscal 2017, acknowledging that some agencies may rotate more than 15 percent of their executives annually, and some may rotate less.

“Not every executive in an agency is required to rotate, however, each agency should implement a systematic process to assess the development needs of each executive and the needs of the agency, enabling the agency to make strategic decisions on rotations and other types of development,” the guidance said.

Agencies should consider their missions and existing succession and hiring plans when creating specific goals and milestones for rotational assignments, OPM said.

OPM will look for an annual update from each agency. It will report the number of executives who served on an assignment during the fiscal year and the kinds of rotations agencies used — among other metrics — to the President.

The first request for data will come from OPM at the end of fiscal 2017.

Not all of the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies will start their rotational programs at the same time. Agencies will implement their programs in three stages, and OPM said it will use lessons learned from the first phase to inform the second and third phases.

Sept. 30, 2016: HHS, HUD, Energy, VA, GSA, OPM, DoD, SSA

Sept. 30, 2017: EPA, Education, USDA, NASA, Transportation, Labor, SBA

Sept. 30, 2018: Commerce, State, DHS, Treasury, Interior, Justice, NSF, USAID, OMB

Talent management and succession planning is another aspect of the President’s SES reforms. The executive order requires that agencies regularly assess the talent they have and the talent they might lose in the near future, and conduct regular meetings with senior executives to talk about their strengths, weaknesses and career goals.

An agency’s Executive Resources Board and the executive’s supervisor should sit in on regular meetings with the SES member, the guidance said. Agency leaders should use these conversations as a “working tool to manage talent,” OPM said.

Select agencies will phase in talent management and succession planning processes over the next three years, OPM said.

“Keep in mind the talent management and succession planning is not just about individual development but it is also about ensuring the agency has a slate of individuals ready to assume the next leadership level should someone retire, etc.,” the guidance said. “It is about strategically developing and managing talent.”

Carol Bonosaro, president emeritus of the Senior Executives Association, acknowledged that OPM’s new guidance is detailed but questioned how agencies would actually implement the rotational requirements.

“I am still concerned that in the end, the rotation assignments are treated as checking off the boxes and meeting the percentage requirements,” she said. “But rather, they’re done for good business reasons for executive development and that executives’ interests are taken in to account.”

Bonosaro also questioned whether agencies that already have talent management and succession planning processes — particularly the Defense Department — would still have to comply with OPM’s reporting requirements.

OPM said it will release more guidance on how to help agencies implement the rotation requirement, as well as other mandates in the President’s executive order.

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