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Earlier this year, the Administration announced a series of policy decisions to streamline and enhance how the Federal government conducts background investigations. A central component in this effort is the establishment of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), a new semi-autonomous entity within the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). NBIB will be the primary provider of effective, efficient, and secure background investigations for the Federal Government. NBIB is designed with an enhanced focus on national security, customer service, and continuous process improvement to meet this critical government-wide need now and in the future.
Today, the President took the next step in this effort by issuing an Executive Order (EO) that sets forth the new interagency framework to modernize, strengthen and secure the Federal Government’s background investigation process, including the roles and responsibilities for NBIB and for DoD’s related IT efforts.
In addition, the Administration is announcing the appointment of Charles S. Phalen, Jr. as NBIB’s first Director. Mr. Phalen brings a wealth of experience and security expertise from the Federal Government and the private sector to NBIB. As Director of Security for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2007 to 2011, he led the CIA’s world-wide security program, responsible for investigating and clearing agency personnel and protecting the workforce and agency facilities. From 2011 until April of 2016, Mr. Phalen served as Vice President of Corporate Security at the Northrop Grumman Corporation, and has continued to participate in several industry security organizations. In his new role, Mr. Phalen will leverage his deep expertise in personnel security, information security, and physical security from both the Federal Government and industry as he leads NBIB in its mission to deliver modernized, timely, quality background investigations.
Mr. Phalen will take the helm of NBIB, which will be headquartered in Washington D.C., beginning on October 1st, when NBIB absorbs the existing mission, functions, and personnel of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services (FIS) and begins to implement a number of changes designed to improve the background investigations process.
NBIB will feature a new organizational structure that institutionalizes strategic stakeholder engagement, an agile acquisition strategy, and the use of innovative, data-driven methods to make improvements in processes. These aspects will be critical as the new organization assumes responsibility for managing the fieldwork contracts OPM recently awarded and other important initiatives to improve capacity and draw down the current backlog of investigations.
Key aspects of NBIB that distinguish it from the previous organization include:
The changes announced today are designed to focus on the integration of innovation and continuous business process improvement to enhance the delivery of background investigations and support an efficient and effective organization that is keenly focused on customer service and national security. The NBIB’s Director will continue the close working relationship between OPM and DoD in its significant IT leadership role and regularly consult with the larger federal community as it implements these changes to modernize and strengthen the way we conduct background investigations.
Having an engaged workforce is critical to each agency’s ability to achieve its mission of providing excellent service to the American people. The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results provide a window into how engaged and satisfied the Federal workforce is.
Today, the Office of Personnel Management is releasing agency-level results of the 2016 FEVS. The results are available at UnlockTalent.gov, the comprehensive, interactive visualization dashboard that helps government leaders make data-driven decisions and design initiatives to improve overall engagement and employee satisfaction at Federal agencies.
Last week we previewed the FEVS data which, for the second year, shows Federal employees are more satisfied with their jobs and feel more engaged in their workplaces.
Below, two of my colleagues whose agencies have worked hard to respond to their FEVS results outline what steps they took to sustain and improve their engagement scores. Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, shares the work he and his team have done to improve their FEVS results and Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, describes how his agency consistently maintains high engagement scores, Their perspectives are just two examples of the continuing commitment of leaders across government – working with their staffs and in partnership with labor – to improving employee engagement of their workforce.
From Secretary Johnson:
“Improving morale within the Department of Homeland Security has been one of my top priorities as Secretary. I have said many times that, this year, morale will improve. Our aggressive campaign to improve morale across this 22-component, 232,000-person workforce has produced results.
Today the Office of Personnel Management released the 2016 results for the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). These results reflect that employee engagement at DHS, after six straight years of decline, went up three whole percentage points this year – from 53 percent in 2015 to 56 percent this year. This is no anomaly. It is regarded by OPM as statistically significant, and compares favorably to the 1 percent increase across the entire U.S. government. This increased morale at DHS was the result of some very hard work, and is the largest increase of any Cabinet Department our size.
Hopefully, these improved results are the beginning of a new, upward trend. I hope the next Secretary of Homeland Security continues to make employee morale a top priority.
Of particular note:
From NASA Administrator Bolden
“NASA is proud to have been named the “Best Place to Work” in the Federal Government (among large agencies) for the past four consecutive years by the Partnership for Public Service. Using the FEVS as a focal point for guidance, over time we have developed a positive work culture with a high level of employee engagement through deliberate, proactive initiatives.
I’ve always told our employees that their voices matter. At NASA, it’s especially critical, as much of our work is difficult and dangerous and sometimes lives are in the balance. We must have a culture where speaking up and providing feedback is encouraged. I’ve made nurturing that culture a centerpiece of my leadership and we created a Workforce Culture Strategy to communicate and codify these values.
With some 18,000 employees at NASA, getting feedback can be daunting and the EVS helps provide a vehicle where people feel they can be candid and offer constructive comments without putting themselves or their jobs at risk. We use it to help offices within our organization to improve and to share their successes. At NASA, we consider ourselves a family and, like any family, there can be some bumps in the road. The EVS helps us get past them.
Based on last year’s employee feedback, we focused this year on second-level performance reviews to support and encourage fairness in ratings and we created a Leader’s Handbook to guide supervisors and employees, and to foster organizational health.
I’m still listening – and feel privileged to be working with such a talented, creative workforce. The best part of serving as NASA Administrator continues to be witnessing how open and honest opinions and ideas have changed NASA for the better. Our entire NASA senior leadership team sincerely cares about our workforce’s opinions and is ready to take action.”
I want to thank my colleagues and their teams for using the FEVS to make progress on employee engagement. I know agency leaders across government are using this important tool to make similar strides. All of us need to work each and every day to make sure the talented people who work for the Federal Government feel valued, included, and engaged in their jobs.
As we recognize National Hispanic Heritage Month, I want to take this opportunity to reinforce our commitment to help agencies across government inspire people from all communities, including Hispanics, to pursue a career in Federal service.
The President is committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce and throughout his Administration he has reached out to incredibly talented Hispanics to help lead our government. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Administrator of the Small Business Administration Maria Contreras-Sweet, and White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz are just a few leaders that epitomize the rich diversity of this Administration. Their leadership has not only been critical to our ability to provide excellent service to the American people, but they continue to serve as incredible role models for all those already serving this nation and those considering a career in Federal service.
As the President said in his proclamation celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: “This month, let us reflect on the countless ways in which Hispanics have contributed to our nation’s success, and let us reaffirm our commitment to expanding opportunity and building an ever bright future for all.”
We want to inspire students still in school and those contemplating careers in the Federal service. To kick-off Hispanic Heritage Month OPM, in conjunction with Adelante, our Hispanic Employee Resource Group, will be hosting a student forum on Monday, September 19. I want to thank our partners who helped develop this program: the National Association of Hispanic Employees (NAHE), the Departments of State and the Interior, the Hispanic Employees Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA), and Prospanica D.C.
This forum will introduce students to the robust set of programs called Pathways that help students from high school through post-graduate school try out Federal service through a paid internship. Pathways also provides an entree into the Federal Government for recent graduates. The Presidential Management Fellows program is our premier leadership development program for recent advanced degree holders.
Monday’s forum will feature a panel of Federal leaders who will talk about their experience in the Federal Government and provide students with some advice about their own career paths.
The forum is open to current students who can participate in person at OPM headquarters or via webcast. For more information visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2016-hispanic-heritage-month-student-forum-tickets-27079618869
You can help us ensure every community is represented in government. Reach out to students, recent graduates, and others in your communities and tell them about the opportunities in Federal service. Reach out to your colleagues in the Federal Government and enlist them to act as ambassadors for the Federal service.
We will continue to focus on the recruitment of Hispanic Americans as part of our overall effort to recruit top talent for the Federal workforce.
So as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s remember that we need a workforce that reflects the diversity and cultures of our communities. As the President says in his proclamation: “Let us embrace the diversity that strengthens us and continue striving to ensure the American dream is within reach for generations of Hispanics to come.”
As we get ready to release the agency-by-agency Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results for 2016 on Tuesday, September 20, I’m excited to share a little preview of the data that shows for the second year Federal employees are more satisfied with their jobs and feel more engaged in their workplaces.
In 2016, 65 percent of the Federal employees surveyed said they are engaged in their workplace. That’s an increase government-wide of one percentage point over 2015 and is two percentage points higher than in 2014. Some individual agencies saw even larger increases.
This is a positive trend that we can build on. These results illustrate that employees across Federal agencies are more engaged in their workplaces and more satisfied with their jobs than they were a year ago. The results also show that what Federal employees tell us about their workplaces and their leaders matter. Federal leaders heard you and put in place initiatives designed to improve employee engagement. The 2016 results show those efforts are making a difference.
FEVS is a confidential survey that measures engagement by asking employees a range of questions to better understand, for example, if their managers communicate the goals and priorities of their organization, their supervisors support employee development, and their work gives them a feeling of personal accomplishment. Such feedback is essential for agencies to find both what engagement efforts are working and pinpoint areas that need improvement.
So, what is Employee Engagement and why is it important?
Essentially, employee engagement captures the employees’ relationship with their work and the workplace. It is employees’ sense of purpose and is displayed in their dedication, persistence and effort or overall attachment to their organization and its mission. Private sector studies have shown a link between employee engagement and increased productivity and improved customer satisfaction ratings.
Having an engaged workforce is critical to the Federal Government’s ability to fulfill our mission to serve the American people. Engaged employees more likely to give their best, work more effectively in teams, share their ideas and creativity, and contribute more at work.
Given the challenges facing our nation and the Federal workforce, it is essential that we foster a culture of excellence and support our employees so they can reach their full potential.
Stay tuned. Next week we will share agency-specific data on www.UnlockTalent.gov, the interactive dashboard that allows employees and leaders to track employee engagement agency-wide and within individual offices. Through the Fall we will continue to add more detailed information to the site.
I want to thank everyone who participated in the 2016 FEVS. I also want to thank the supervisors, managers, and leaders across government who have taken the results of last year’s FEVS to heart and worked to make sure their employees are better engaged, satisfied and happy on the job. And I want to thank all our dedicated Federal employees for the work they do every day to serve this great country.
OPM is happy to announce that the all-new FSAFEDS.com is open for business to serve our current FSAFEDS participants. We’re excited about the new tools and flexibilities that will help you to easily manage your Flexible Spending Accounts.
What You Need to Know
The FSAFEDS program had a blackout period for claims and reimbursements as we transitioned to WageWorks, our new contractor. The system was brought online on September 1. The address for the website, www.FSAFEDS.com and the toll-free telephone number 1-877-FSAFEDS (877-372-3337) remain the same.
So what is a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and how does it save employees money? An FSA with FSAFEDS is a pre-tax benefit account that's used to pay for eligible medical, dental, vision care, or dependent care expenses - such as day care for young children and elder care expenses - that are not covered by insurance. With an FSA, you use pre-tax dollars to pay for qualified out-of-pocket health and dependent care expenses instead of post-tax dollars. This allows the average participant to save 30 percent on eligible expenses, typically including co-pays, some over-the-counter medicines and supplies, payments for caregivers, and more.
In other words, with an FSA, you can both reduce your taxes and get more for your money by saving about 30 percent off what you would normally pay for out-of-pocket health care and dependent care expenses if you used your “take home pay” dollars. Plus, there is no cost to employees to enroll and use this program.
For more information on Flexible Spending Accounts, you can visit the website. There’s even a calculator to help you figure out potential cost savings.
To sign up for an FSA, unless you experience a change in status, you need to enroll or re-enroll during the annual Federal Benefits Open Season from mid-November through mid-December (or during your first 60 days of employment for new employees) but here are links to information that will help you be prepared when the time comes:
How HealthCare (Medical, Dental, Vision) FSAs can help with costs: https://www.FSAFEDS.com/explore/hcfsa
How Dependent Care (Children and Adults) FSAs can help with costs: https://www.FSAFEDS.com/explore/dcfsa
If you choose (or are interested in choosing) a high deductible healthcare plan, the LEX HCFSA might be for you: https://www.FSAFEDS.com/explore/lex-hcfsa
If you have more questions, you can always reach out to the Customer Service center at FSAFEDS via phone, email, fax, or physical mail: https://www.FSAFEDS.com/contact
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