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This Veterans Day, as we honor and express our gratitude to the men and women who so valiantly served our nation in uniform, I want us to take a moment and think about the battle so many of our returning heroes face – how to make the transition to the next chapter of their lives.
I’m thinking about veterans like Christopher, who after being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during his decade of service in the Air Force went from job to job, doing work that did not satisfy him.
Or Georgia, a disabled combat veteran whose work as a water purification and distribution specialist during Desert Shield/Desert Storm did not, she said, translate very well in the civilian sector.
Or Julien, a Purple Heart recipient who was a field radio operator in the Marine Corps. When he left the military, his challenge was to balance going to school full time and working full time.
Veterans like these were on President Obama’s mind when he issued Executive Order 13518 to honor our obligations to our nation’s returning service members and establish a hallmark Federal employment initiative to encourage more veterans to join the Federal service.
A look at the numbers shows we’re delivering on the President’s objective. When he issued his
Executive Order on November 9, 2009, the percentage of new veterans hired into the Federal Government was 24 percent. At the end of fiscal year (FY) 2015, that percentage was 32.5 percent. Since FY 2009, the Federal Government has hired more than half a million veterans in 24 different agencies.
But the numbers don’t begin to tell the whole story or speak to why the President and I believe it’s critical for the Federal Government to recruit talented, qualified, and dedicated veterans for the Federal workforce.
Not only is hiring veterans the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. The skills, leadership, and discipline that veterans bring to Federal workplaces across this great nation are essential to our ability to meet our mission to serve the American people. Our collective challenge was and remains to understand and capitalize on the strengths that these veterans can bring to Federal service, and to help connect them with agencies across the government that need these skills.
Each year the Federal Government spends millions of dollars training service members like Christopher, Georgia and Julien to meet many and varied challenges. When service members are ready to hang up their uniforms and transition to civilian life, we can maximize our investments in their training by encouraging them to continue serving their country as civilian Federal employees.
As part of the President’s veterans initiative we created the one-stop website for Federal employment– FedsHireVets.gov – where veterans and their families can get information and resources to help them find employment opportunities. Veteran Employment Program Offices are in place in 24 agencies and the website provides information on how veterans can connect with these offices to learn about career opportunities and about how to navigate the Federal employment process.
The Executive Order also established the President’s Council on Veterans Employment, which has tackled such issues as helping agencies find ways to retain the talented veterans they hire. The Council also looked at how to maximize opportunities for women veterans to join the Federal service.
But the real success stories come from veterans themselves.
After trying out different jobs Christopher became a volunteer, then an intern with the National Park Service. He says he is now “living my dream” as a Park Ranger in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in California.
Georgia now works for the Bureau of Land Management as an Outdoor Recreation Planner and says the best part of her job is she knows that what she does “makes a difference.”
And Julien now has a bachelor’s of science in business administration, is working at the Department of Labor and says: “I could not be more thrilled about the next stage of my career in the Federal Government.”
Even as we celebrate this progress and the success stories of these talented veterans, we must rededicate ourselves to helping more of their fellow veterans and help agencies recruit, train and retain these talented employees.
And on this Veterans Day, I want to thank the women and men who made the choice to serve their fellow Americans - first in uniform and now as part of the two-million strong Federal workforce.
Whether its animal welfare, art and music programs, support for veterans or the environment, cancer research or soup kitchens, the issues Federal employees care about are varied and diverse. But Federal employees share a common goal: they care about the world we live in, and want to make it a better place. You should know that through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), you can contribute to your favorite cause that has special meaning for you and/or your family.
You and nearly 4 million of your Federal civilian, postal, and military colleagues continue to make the CFC the largest and most successful workplace philanthropic giving programs in the world. In 2015, Federal employees donated nearly $178 million through the CFC to charitable causes in their local communities, throughout the nation, and around the world. In fact, since the program began, more than $8 billion has been contributed by Federal employees to help those in need.
The reasons for you to give through the CFC are simple:
Choice – Participation in the CFC is voluntary and easy to do. You can choose from a number of giving methods: one-time or recurring; cash, check, credit card, or payroll deduction; paper pledge form or online pledge. The CFC’s online database also lets you search more than 19,000 charities based on your interests – with no geographic restrictions – to help you identify organizations you’d like to support.
Confidence – You can be confident that the organization you donate to meets strict accountability and oversight standards. Nonprofit organizations apply annually to be included in the CFC’s list of charitable organizations, ensuring their continued adherence to CFC’s public accountability standards. Also, local CFC efforts are audited annually and are overseen by a committee of Federal employees to ensure the CFC protects the interests of federal employees.
Convenience - The most convenient giving method is the most popular. With a simple payroll deduction, most donors realize they can give more to their favorite charities by spreading their gifts out over time. Let your payroll office do the work of sending a small portion of your pay to the causes that matter to you—a little bit every pay period.
Through the CFC, you can direct your gift to the causes you care about the most. No matter how you choose to “show some love”, in the spirit of this year’s CFC theme, now is the time for you to make a difference. Please give what you can to make a difference during the 2016 CFC season. No gift is too small!
The 2016 CFC runs through December 15, 2016. To make your pledge/donation or to request additional information, please contact your agency’s CFC coordinator, visit opm.gov/cfc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We all know that domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (DVSAS) are significant problems that affect individuals, families, and communities. The unfortunate reality is that – whether we know it or not – at some point in our careers most of us likely will have a colleague who has experienced or is experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The effects of such violence often don’t just remain within the walls of the home. They affect all of us who live and work with victims and survivors, their children, and other loved ones. To do our part in providing all employees with a safe and supportive workplace, OPM and DOJ have announced a new online training to educate Federal employees and managers on this sensitive topic.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and whether DVSAS has affected you personally, a family member or friend, this issue is unfortunately, extremely prevalent in today’s society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average, 20 people per minute in the United States are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner and domestic violence costs our nation approximately $8 billion a year in lost productivity and health care costs. CDC data finds that more than one in three women and more than one in four men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
As the largest employer in the nation, the Federal Government has a duty to promote the health and safety of its employees by providing support and assistance to those whose working lives are affected by DVSAS. In his 2012 “Presidential Memorandum on Establishing Policies for Addressing Domestic Violence in the Federal Workforce,” the President made this issue a priority, saying, “The Federal Government should act as a model in responding to the effects of domestic violence on its workforce. Agencies have taken steps to address this issue and by building on these important efforts and existing policies, the Federal Government can further address the effects of domestic violence on its workforce.”
The memorandum directs Federal agencies to consider implementing programs to educate and train supervisors, human resources personnel, and employees about the effects of DVSAS in the workplace. As a result of this directive, OPM partnered with DOJ’s Office on Violence against Women to provide agencies with guidance and technical assistance in developing their internal human resources policies supporting employees that may be victims or survivors. The newly released online training is a strong step forward in helping fulfill the President’s goal.
The interactive and informative training shows how DVSAS is a workplace issue, gives signs and symptoms of DVSAS to watch out for, describes how to maintain confidentiality in the workplace, and identifies the internal and external resources available to assist employees and managers dealing with this issue.
I encourage all Federal employees to complete the training, which approaches the DVSAS topic in a realistic way. It is available government-wide through HR University.
DVSAS is not only a personal issue, it is a workplace issue. At OPM, across the government, and in other places of employment, we need to work together to ensure our employees have a safe and nurturing environment in which to work. With this training, and the agency-specific DVSAS workplace policies, we will be at the forefront of preparing the workforce for proactive and effective response to potential DVSAS-related incidents they may encounter in the workplace.
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.
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