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We all love to celebrate the Fourth of July. It is, after all, the birthday of our country. We grill, watch fireworks, and spend quality time with family and friends – what isn’t there to love?
But as we celebrate the holiday and the gift of independence that our Founding Fathers gave us, I want to reflect for a moment on the gifts Americans have given us throughout history and continue to gift us every day.
Every generation, individuals have risen to the challenge to make real and meaningful contributions to society, from our revolutionary ancestors to modern space pioneers. They were at the forefront of the sciences, arts, and literature. They challenged the status quo. They fought for a more equitable world.
At 25, Booker T. Washington became the first leader of the Tuskegee Institute.
At 32, Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers association, predecessor to the United Farm Workers.
At 25, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.
Our history is filled with Americans rising to meet our nation’s challenges. And as Director of the Office of Personnel Management, I’m fortunate enough to see such incredible contributions being made throughout our Federal workforce.
These contributions are not limited to revolutionary eras or times of great hardship. They are not limited to age or ethnicity or gender or orientation. They are what we’ve come to expect throughout history. And they are what we get from our Federal employees as they work hard every day to serve the American people. Our Federal family continues to strive to fulfill our Founding Father’s vision and to set the bar for the next generation. They do it with the giving spirit that will motivate generations to come.
I know I will personally take time this weekend to honor the gifts of not only the great Americans who founded this nation, but also of those who continue to make our nation better today. I hope you will do the same.
Happy Independence Day.
Through his Management Agenda, President Obama is committed to delivering a smarter, more innovative and more accountable government for the American people.
We have had the honor to take a leading role with the “People and Culture” portion of the agenda - a portion we believe is the cornerstone of the agenda. Why? Because an engaged, innovative, and productive Federal workforce is the key to everything we do in service to America. And last week, we released our detailed Agency Priority Goal action plan on how we plan to improve the Federal workforce both for today and for tomorrow.
Within this action plan, we are taking a three-pronged approach to make sure the Federal government successfully unlocks the talent of the workforce we have today and builds the workforce we need for the future. Through these efforts, we believe we will be able to create a culture of excellence and engagement that will foster higher performance; an exemplary Federal management team, starting with the Senior Executive Service; and innovative recruiting tools that allow agencies to attract the best talent from every segment of society.
We’d like to describe for you these important elements of the People and Culture pillar.
Driving Employee Engagement: We need to draw on the varied talent, expertise and experience of our great workforce, and to do that, we need to give our employees some new tools:
Building a World-Class Management Team: Starting with the Senior Executive Service, we will position our management team to provide the highest level of leadership within and across Departments and Agencies.
Finding the Best Talent: Working with stakeholders, OPM is meeting with agency and department heads and untying the “knots” getting in their way of recruiting the talent they need.
These initiatives of the People and Culture pillar were developed over the past year by some of the most senior officials in government through the President’s Management Council along with staff from all agencies.
We want to thank our teams at OPM and the Presidential Personnel Office as well as our agency partners, the CHCO council, the President’s Leadership Workshop, and the Office of Management and Budget for what we know will be their tireless efforts to implement this ambitious action plan. Furthermore, we invite your feedback as we move forward given this will be a living agenda. I know that together, we will make sure that the Federal government is a model for the 21st Century.
It’s no secret that we need more millennials in the Federal government. Currently only 7% of the workforce is under the age of 30. And this sought-after demographic is a constant topic of the national conversation – their habits, their vices, their skills. But instead of talking about them, I want to talk to them.
So millennials, here’s what I want you to know.
We have a place for you in the Federal government. You tell us you want a job that matters, that you want to work for organizations that make a difference. You want to be in a place that encourages and rewards innovative thinking. You want to be able to develop your skills. And, most of all, you care about public service and believe that government can make a difference.
We know we can’t offer all the perks that the private sector does. We don’t have endless free food, company cars to get you to work or huge signing bonuses. But we can offer you the chance to develop, to lead, and to make a difference in people’s lives.
In the Federal government, you can have the job you dreamed of as a child. You can be a firefighter, an astronaut, or a doctor. You can help the homeless, care for our veterans, or meet with foreign dignitaries. You can help a budding entrepreneur start a small business, a student be the first in her family to go to college, or an inventor get his first patent. You can do almost anything in the Federal government.
I know you want a better hiring process. We’re working hard to make our job announcements easier to understand. We’re expanding our outreach to job seekers by increasing our use of technology to recruit, especially social media. And we’re launching a new applicant website this summer that will make one-stop shopping possible. It will have resources ranging from how to tailor your resume for a job with government to how to apply to the Pathways Program, all in one place.
I know you may not want to commit for the long term. You want to try new things and grow in a variety of jobs. I admire that and I respect that. So I am asking you to give us a try, to give Federal service a few years. We need your energy. We need your knowledge. We need your innovation.
Try us out. Check out the Pathways and Recent Graduates Programs. Apply to be a Presidential Management Fellow. Join the Federal family and see if we’re a fit. We have a lot of important work we can do together.
I was honored to speak at the White House Summit on Working Families. The conference, co-hosted by the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress, brought together business and labor leaders, economists, policy makers, advocates and everyday citizens to discuss policy solutions that can make a real difference in the lives of working families and ensure America’s global competitiveness in the coming decades.
At the conference, President Obama unveiled his memorandum designed to enhance workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. The President also directed OPM to work with agencies to promote the use of such programs, ranging from telework to alternative work schedules to leave programs. OPM will be responsible for assessing agency programs, educating employees and their managers, and promoting a culture that encourages and supports these flexibilities.
I participated in a panel called the Structure of the Workplace. It focused on the importance of having workplace flexibilities and what they mean to employees. Here’s just one example: When employees know that their boss will bend over backwards to accommodate them when a family emergency comes up, then they will be willing to go the extra mile when a critical situation arises at work. The result? Happier and more productive employees. That’s the culture we need.
With the President’s encouragement and through our partnership with the agencies, we will work to remove barriers that exist in fostering that culture. And every Federal employee will be an integral part of making it happen.
Feds Feed Families has begun! Since 2009, Federal employees have joined together in the summer months to stock food pantries in communities across the country.
OPM founded the Federal food drive program, in response to President Obama’s call for all Americans to contribute to the nation’s economic recovery by serving their communities. The Feds Feed Families program is continuing to provide assistance to families in need under the leadership of the Department of Agriculture.
In its inaugural year, Feds Feed Families collected 1 million pounds of food that went to local food pantries. Each year since, we’ve bested the previous year’s total, and last year we raised an incredible 8.9 million pounds of food and non-perishable items. Over the past four years, together we have donated 15 million pounds. Despite the challenges we’ve all faced, the Federal family continues to show its generosity and willingness to come together and help those in need.
It’s time to do it again. The summer months are crucial. As need increases, particularly because children are out of school and cannot count on their daily school lunches, donations decrease. Our neighbors need our help.
The inter-agency collaborative effort and volunteer nature of Feds Feed Families means the program runs on a minimal budget. Here at OPM we hold regular events, offer simple recognition to the most generous employee donors and even engage in friendly competition between our offices to keep the food coming in. We’re hoping to best our own internal record of 71,152 pounds of food. I know we can do it.
Let’s continue to fill our community pantries here in DC and around the country. As a Federal family, we have made true and lasting impacts. Together we can do even more.
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