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World Breastfeeding Week, an event organized by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, occurs each August to highlight the importance of supporting nursing mothers going back to work. In the United States, over one-third of all mothers working outside of the home have children under the age of two! Many of these women may want to breastfeed, but they may not be able to, due to work constraints.

Federal agencies are required by law to provide nursing employees with reasonable time and private space to express milk for their infant child for the first year of the child’s life. In addition to the requirements of the law, the best agency programs include pre-natal, return-to-work and related counseling for these nursing mothers. Supportive work-life policies and practices benefit the employer as well as the employee. Worksites that support nursing mothers result in fewer sick days, higher rates of retention, increased job satisfaction and loyalty, and increased productivity.  

Available Federal resources for nursing mothers include:

  • Agency Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or Workplace Lactation Coordinators who provide support to nursing mothers. EAPs offer a wealth of information, resources, and counseling.

While many Federal agencies continue to work towards implementing outstanding programs and facilities in their workplaces, several agencies have already succeeded in doing just that. The National Security Agency (NSA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Department of Energy (DOE) have gone above and beyond to help working moms juggle their duties along with breastfeeding. Their programs include handing out prenatal education kits, hosting a new parent open house, teaching on-site prenatal breastfeeding classes, and providing on-site lactation consultants, just to name a few.

At OPM, we believe it is our job to celebrate the Federal workforce by offering our employees every opportunity to thrive in both their personal and professional lives. By allowing nursing mothers the ability to continue to breastfeed, we are giving them the chance to get back to work sooner, if that is their plan.

If you would like more information on Federal guidelines regarding breastfeeding, check out this Fact Sheet and these FAQs. You can also contact your agency’s work-life office or OPM’s work-life staff at worklife@opm.gov.


The picture says Unlock Talent Connect with a picture of a lock and the words OPM.gov and UnlockTalent.gov


The UnlockTalent team at OPM is pleased to announce new updates to UnlockTalent.gov. We have revamped the Community of Practice page and have renamed it to UnlockTalent Connect. We designed UnlockTalent Connect to help facilitate collaboration and information sharing across Federal agencies.

Unlock Talent Connect highlights a perfect example of how OPM is developing a 21st century modernized workforce. By sharing governmentwide data, we hope that UnlockTalent Connect will serve as a useful platform allowing employees to form connections that help to address critical challenges in the Federal Government.

The UnlockTalent Connect page functions as a shared hub of communal resources and contains case studies, videos, training, research, and best practices. All registered users of UnlockTalent can view this page after logging into the site.

Updates to the page include:

  • Revamped Design
    • Organized into five sections consistent with the new Human Capital Framework (HCF): workforce demographics, talent management, performance management, strategic planning and alignment, and evaluation, it has been redesigned to allow for better navigation between topic areas.
  • Updated What’s New Section
    • Includes links to upcoming trainings, conferences, announcements and other opportunities. This section will be updated on an ongoing basis.
  • Content from both government agencies and private sector sources
    • Contributors are encouraged to submit best practices, research and other resources that would be of benefit to the Federal workforce.

We believe that people are the Federal Government’s most important resource, and we encourage Federal employees like you to become a part of the UnlockTalent community. You can do that by logging into UnlockTalent.gov right now to check out the new page and updates! Here are just a few things you can do on the new UnlockTalent Connect Page:

  • Submit your upcoming conference, webinar or training to the “what’s new” section
  • Check out some of the latest trends in addressing employee engagement in the Federal Government
  • Read research from both Federal and private sector sources

If you do not have an UnlockTalent.gov account, you can self-register using your valid government email address.

UnlockTalent Connect is actively seeking content. To submit research, trainings, and/or announcement for inclusion on UnlockTalent Connect, or if you have any questions, please email UnlockTalent@opm.gov.

 



The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) celebrates the dignity and equal rights of all LGBT Americans and commemorates the events that occurred at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in June of 1969, which led to an impressively powerful movement to outlaw discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

This year’s theme is “Remember the Past, Create the Future,” which invites us to reflect on the history of the LGBT community, along with its struggles and triumphs, and to strive to create a brighter future.  Throughout the month, Federal departments and agencies in partnership with employee resource groups and special emphasis programs are creating the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the workforce, to our nation, and around the world. 

OPM is committed to human capital management strategies that attract, develop and retain a high performing, engaged and diverse Federal workforce where each employee feels valued and respected as a member of the Federal family.

In honor of LGBT Pride month, OPM is offering LGBT Training to OPM employees. The training provides information to help encourage a welcoming workplace culture for everyone, and helps OPM take full advantage of the skills and talents of all employees. OPM champions diversity in all its forms; not only because we believe in equal opportunity for everyone, but because we know that having diverse backgrounds, opinions and viewpoints enriches OPM’s performance.

As we, at OPM, continue to attract and maintain a diverse workforce that reflects all segments of our society, we encourage all Federal employees to further commit themselves to the progress we’ve made in creating a culture that is aware, accepting, inclusive, and respectful of our diversity.

Happy Pride Month!



With an estimated 75 percent of federal agencies using decades-old paper processes to complete performance appraisals—managers and staff often have to spend considerable time focusing on the process rather than the meaningful conversations necessary to improve performance.

Not surprisingly, when surveyed, few federal staff or managers say they like doing performance appraisals.  This is a pain point for everyone involved. Not only is the process antiquated, it is inconsistent.

Even agencies attempting to automate performance management struggle to customize and “federalize” private-sector software, resulting in an array of systems that do not talk to each other, do not comply with the unique requirements of the federal service, and require each agency to reinvent this wheel separately by paying for customization. Too many federal HR departments get locked into a cycle of spending to modernize their performance management environment, while only getting piecemeal improvements. 

USA Performance solves these problems by taking the process online, integrating federal best practices, and building a system designed to handle every type of federal performance plan or program.

USA Performance is the Office of Personnel Management’s software-as-a-service solution that is transforming the way federal agencies manage and improve individual employee performance. USA Performance listens to the needs of HR managers and employees alike– it’s even on LinkedIn—and the team of HR experts behind the program is agile in adapting the needs of federal agencies quickly into new system enhancements.

It saves federal agencies valuable time and money. For instance, in a small agency of 3,000 employees, USA Performance saves over 6,000 labor hours and $50,000 in printing and scanning costs every year.

Since USA Performance resides in OPM, the federal spend on this function is completely transparent, supporting the President’s Management Agenda CAP Goal 10.  As USA Performance is adopted government-wide, we can achieve enterprise-level transparency and financial accountability while driving consistent excellence in this area.

USA Performance will also enable the government to more actively and assertively manage employee performance, driving increased accountability, helping defend and execute performance-based actions to remove non-performers, and serving as a key driver for other transformative initiatives such as pay-for-performance.


Text Summer Design School 2018 with a bright modern background and the Lab at OPM logo

By: Erin Siminerio, Acting Lead, Insights, Veterans Experience Office, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

As part of the Federal Executive Institute within the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), The Lab at OPM is a practice that fosters innovation through human-centered design. Our goal is to teach human-centered design across the Federal Government and to help deliver innovative solutions that address complex public and cross-sector challenges. One way we do this is through courses and workshops. One of our newest courses is our Design School, which we deliver seasonally. We ran a Spring Design School earlier this year in March. Below are some of the reflections from our partner at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. We’ll be running our Summer Design School June 18-22, 2018 in DC. Follow us over the course of that week on twitter @LABopm to learn more about the experience. You can learn more about The Lab at our website as well.

Have you ever been to a training and left inspired and ready to change the world? Then, Monday morning hits. You’re back to the deluge of email. Before you realize it, you’re back in your routine, and everything you learned goes right out the window. It’s not your fault; the course was likely poorly designed with regard to being actionable.

I recently wrapped up an incredible week-long experience at Spring Design School (SDS) with The Innovation Lab at the Office of Personnel Management (The Lab at OPM). The Lab at OPM builds a human-centered design capacity in the federal workforce through a mix of project-based work with partner agencies (including VA) and education programs, like Spring Design School. With the unique perspective of being embedded within a federal government agency, The Lab understands first-hand what it’s like to apply human-centered design in the government context. It uses that knowledge to design educational offerings that support participants in their return to their office. As such, Spring Design School was intentionally designed to ensure that participants have “studio time” to apply what we were learning in real time while it’s fresh, so there is no risk of leaving without knowing how to practice what has been preached all week. The Lab also encourages people to come to SDS with real problems that need to be solved, so that the time spent can contribute towards solving a real problem rather than a manufactured one.

I’m a designer-in-training and direct a portfolio of research and design work in the Veterans Experience Office (VEO) at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Our work is enabling the VA to improve the customer experience for Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors with data, tools, technology, and engagements. Although much of the content delivered through SDS was familiar, I haven’t had much time in my day job to practice the art myself. I’ve been primarily focused on directing the work rather than doing the work. Spring Design School provided me the space and time to dig into human-centered design (HCD) without distractions.

When we arrived the first morning, we were asked, “What would be the craziest thing that could happen after a week at Spring Design School?” One of my colleagues answered that human-centered design become a part of everything we do at the VA rather than something a separate group does for select projects. That is my hope as well, and we are working toward infusing this method of problem solving across the VA. In fact, we used Spring Design School to kick off our efforts to build the capacity for human-centered design in our approach to problem solving in VA. A total of 13 staff from VEO (including me) participated in this week-long course in March. Here is a brief reflection of what we learned.

  1. Human-centered design cannot be fully learned in one week.

    During the kick-off of Summer Design School, we were reminded not to expect to be an expert at HCD by the end of the week.  There isn’t a finish line when it comes to learning how to be a creative problem solver and how to put user needs at the center of designing solutions. There also isn’t a cookbook recipe for how to train someone on human-centered design.  It takes a certain mindset plus a combination of education and training on the process, exposure to the methods through project work/case studies, and application on actual projects. It’s a muscle that we are building that will help us be more creative problem solvers and, most importantly, ensure we design effective solutions that meet people’s real needs.

  2. Convening a diverse set of stakeholders expands the world of possibility.

    When we were initially encouraged to break up and mix with others across government and the private sector, some of us were questioning that approach.  Who knows how to solve VA problems better than VA staff? What we learned by trusting the process is oftentimes you learn the most from people who aren’t as close to the work and who can provide a fresh perspective.  This was an invaluable and important lesson learned about getting outside your inner circle/echo chamber, or your comfort zone, and inviting fresh perspectives to expand your thinking.   

  3. HCD compliments and amplifies the expertise that already exists in an agency.

    On Day 1, we heard from a panel of experts across government – some formally trained in design and others not –about their efforts to drive innovation in their respective agencies and what they’ve learned about the ingredients for success—such as reframing problems, working collaboratively and the importance of recognition. The big takeaway for me was that we have much of what we need already within us, we just need to get out of our offices, get some fresh perspective through HCD, and start asking questions to start reframing problems, so we make sure we are solving the right one. 

  4. A number of different disciplines contribute to HCD.

The week was essentially an immersion into the different disciplines that contribute to creative problem solving.  On Monday, we learned about human-centered design and its close cousin design thinking. On Tuesday, we learned how behavioral economics can help us understand what biases affect what people do and how we can leverage that understanding to design more effective innovations.  On Wednesday, we did a deep dive virtually (due to snow) on ethnography and heard from an anthropologist at George Washington University about the dynamic between the participant and the researcher.  Then, Thursday we explored systems thinking and diagramming and got a little more comfortable sketching and drawing.  For someone who can only draw stick figures it took some getting used to, but it was a reminder that pictures can communicate so much more and that we should start drawing whenever we get stuck.  Friday morning we focused on designing for policy and how design is not about simplifying but rather clarifying.  Friday afternoon was focused on final presentations of the problems we brought; the approach we took to solving it; and we presented and received a constructive critique on what else we might want to consider. 

After a week-long immersion at Spring Design School, I feel better prepared to solve complex challenges.  This is not a race, since there is no finish line.  The craziest thing that I hope will happen now is that more people will get an opportunity to build this problem solving muscle and that this way of thinking will continue to spread across government. I believe we will all be better off as a result of it. 

Erin Siminerio, Acting Lead, Insights, Veterans Experience Office, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs presenting during final presentations

 


 

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