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Our Director Director's Blog

Welcome! We are committed to recruiting and retaining a world-class workforce for the American people.

Take a look at our blogs and share with others. Once you are on a particular blog page, you can give us the thumbs up. Connect with Acting Director Cobert on Twitter: @OPMDirector and Also, find us on other social media channels.

“We’re creating a new initiative called the White House Leadership Development Program for Future Senior Career Executives…we want people to get new experiences that re-energize them, reinvigorate them.  We want the next generation of leaders to have the experience of solving problems and building relationships across the government.  Because one thing that we have to acknowledge is that our government often statutorily was organized for the needs of the 1930s or ‘40s or ‘60s, and too often, we get stove-piped at a time when we need people with different skill sets and different agencies to be working together.” 
President Obama, December 2014

As part of the President’s Management Agenda, the Administration is focused on developing and unlocking the full potential of the federal workforce to drive greater effectiveness and efficiency within government and better harness taxpayer resources to spur economic growth for the American people.  To further this commitment, in December 2014 President Obama announced the White House Leadership Development (WHLD) Program to provide opportunities for aspiring senior career civil servants to develop their skills and better serve the American public.

We are proud to announce that following a rigorous selection process, 16 talented GS-15 employees have been chosen for the inaugural cohort that begins later this month.

The WHLD Fellows hail from a variety of agencies, functional areas and backgrounds.  These public servants come from all walks of life and from every corner of America to carry on the proud tradition of dedicating their careers to serving others.  They are indicative of the talent that thrives across government. Their interest and enthusiasm for building a whole-of-government perspective and for driving results on mission-critical priorities is inspiring. It also speaks to the need for a program such as this to provide opportunities for federal employees to build the experiences, skillsets and networks that are critical to enterprise leaders

The WHLD Fellows will serve a one year rotation on high-visibility, cross-agency projects, such as the Cross-Agency Priority Goals. Additionally, WHLD Fellows will engage in an innovative development program that is targeted at the competencies, stakeholders, and exposure to collaborative practices required of enterprise leaders.
The program objectives are two-fold:

  • Developing Talent: To help retain & grow top talent within the Federal government by working on the complex, cross-agency challenges which increasingly confront the Federal Government.
  • Delivering Results: Harness top talent from across the government to support implementation of key priorities and address mission critical challenges, such as the Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals.

For more information on the Fellows and the WHLD Program, click here.

We are excited about the opportunity that the WHLD Program brings and its potential to train future leaders on how to address challenges that cut across agency boundaries.

We believe the White House Leadership Development Program is one way to prepare the 21st century workforce.  As the President said, a high-performing government relies on an engaged, well-prepared and well-trained workforce. So do the American people.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during an event for the Senior Executive Service at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2014.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during an event for the Senior Executive Service at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Beth Cobert is the Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management.

Dave Mader is the Acting Deputy Director for Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget. 

By Steve Shih, Deputy Associate Director for Senior Executive Services and Performance Management

In the Federal Government, we emphasize the importance of work-life flexibilities for attracting, empowering, and retaining a talented and productive workforce. Earlier this month – in celebration of National Work and Family Month – Acting Director Cobert issued a memo on the progress we’ve made across government to improve our use of work-life flexibilities. From telework to employee assistance programs to free preventive health programs, there are many resources and tools available to employees to help them succeed in their work and their personal lives.

I’m thrilled to serve as a senior executive where my job includes leading work-life policy for the Federal Government. I am able to model work-life integration with my own team and support the well being of my colleagues. I want to share some of the strategies I have found successful. Below are three ways agencies, leaders, and employees can support and practice work-life success.

1. Act strategically. 

Take a strategic approach to achieving excellence in your work and personal lives. Start by figuring out where you want to end up. Then create a personal plan that lays out your goals – from individual to family to professional. Finally, identify the milestones you want to accomplish. 

Once you’ve developed your plan, act purposefully to implement it, regularly measure your progress, and adjust your plan if necessary. Make sure to involve important people in your life to help you along the way and keep you accountable for following your plan. 

A free, online training course is available for Federal employees through OPM’s “Manager’s Corner” that teaches these concepts and strategies.

 2. Engage others and communicate.

Your success in balancing work and life priorities will often depend on the support you receive from your supervisor and your colleagues. Supervisors should strive to be open to their employees’ needs, goals, ideas, and concerns and provide a safe, trusting environment where employees are comfortable having candid conversations. Leaders should share information on work-life flexibilities and resources available in their agencies. Employees should be mindful of the opportunities that exist and their responsibility to inform their supervisors of their needs and priorities.  They should also take ownership by proposing solutions that can achieve both organizational and personal goals. Partnership is the key.

3. Manage technology.

Technology is absolutely vital in our lives; it maximizes our access to information and communication, and it increases our productivity and ability to telework. But technology can also be a distraction.  

Be cognizant of how and when you use electronics at work and at home. Use your devices to save time, increase communication, and better manage schedules. At work, consider if a phone call may be more effective than an email or if an instant message could replace an in-person meeting. When you’re home, be mindful of how electronics can divert your attention from loved ones, household tasks, or sleep. Achieving a balance in how we use our devices can make a big difference in our quality of life.

For more information about work-life programs and what is available to you, visit and contact your agency’s human resources office. These tools are crucial to the continued success of our workforce's ability to succeed at home and on the job.

 Man hands bag of vegetables to woman at farmers market

Hiring is one of a manager’s most important responsibilities. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to hire many people – at the junior, mid-career, and senior levels – and over time, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to find and hire top talent.

The human resources team is a crucial partner and advisor for assisting with the technical aspects of hiring and to help make sure the process moves along smoothly. But every team is different, even within the same business, organization, or agency. And managers are best equipped to know what kind of distinctive skills and talents they need on their team.

If managers work hand-in-hand with the HR team to identify the strategies that will help them identify and interview the best possible candidates, they can help achieve “hiring excellence.” Encouraging managers to be fully engaged rather than relying solely on HR to drive the process is key to OPM’s work to improving hiring throughout the Federal government.

When I get to the interview stage, I take applicants out of their rehearsed comfort zones to get a real feel for who they are and how they would work with me on a daily basis. We all have our tried and true interview techniques and stories – our biggest weaknesses, what we bring to the office – and these are helpful. But more important for me is to find out who the applicant is. What is the individual’s passion, and how does that help us achieve our mission? Are they constantly curious and ready to learn? How do they navigate real-time problem-solving? Are they able to think outside the box? These qualities are important to me.

One of my favorite interview questions to ask is, “What is the most important thing that you accomplished last week?” This question is valuable because it solicits both a tangible and unrehearsed answer, as well as a genuine insight into what the person values about their work. I also like to hear how the candidate did the work and who he or she brought in to help, because this says a lot about whether or not the candidate is a team player.

Especially when hiring junior folks, I always look for how well the person took advantage of the opportunities available to them, no matter what the setting, whether the applicant came from the Ivy League or a community college, a small startup or one of the Fortune 500. I value that above most other qualities because it shows resourcefulness, willingness to grow, curiosity to learn, and a commitment to working hard in order to succeed.

These qualities are important to me when I hire. And I encourage every manager throughout government to take some time to think about what they want in their next employee, both in technical skill and personality. Managers are the key to building hiring excellence across government. 

A woman sits in a chair with a pad and pen in her hand talking to a man facing away from the camera. Group of other people are doing the same in the room.

As we conclude the month-long celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, OPM is releasing its new report on Hispanic employment in the Federal Government. The data shows that we continue to make steady progress in improving the representation of Hispanics in Federal service. The numbers also indicate that agencies that have made the recruitment and retention of Hispanics an important part of hiring and inclusion have shown more progress.

The fiscal year 2014 Government-wide Hispanic Employment Report shows that the percentage of Hispanics in the Federal workforce has risen from 6.5 percent in FY 2000 – the year the Executive Order affirming the need to improve Hispanic representation in the workforce was signed – to 8.4 percent in FY2014.

OPM has been working with its partners across government to fulfill a key element of the President’s Management Agenda – to help agencies address any barriers that inhibit their ability to recruit, hire, and retain a workforce that is drawn from the diversity of the country we serve.

An important part of our strategy is building a cadre of diverse leadership across government. The new report shows that the percentage of Hispanics in the Senior Executive Service (SES) rose from 4.1 percent in fiscal year 2013 to 4.4 percent in fiscal year 2014. The data also shows that the percentage of new SES hires who were Hispanic increased from 3.5 percent in FY 2013 to 5.5 percent in FY 2014.

Among the 25 large agency and department workforces, the report reflects that 20 increased the percentage of Hispanic employees and five remained unchanged.

I want to highlight the stories of three agencies that have made strides in increasing Hispanic representation – the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Department of Defense’s Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), and NASA.

The common thread among them is that these agencies target their recruitment in geographic areas that have high Latino populations; have active Hispanic Employment Program Managers; engage with their Hispanic employee resource groups; and reach out to students and job-seekers through colleges and universities, at job fairs, and other employment programs.

Over the past five years, Hispanic employment at SSA rose from 13.6 percent to 15.1 percent. Agency officials participate in career fairs, collaborate with Hispanic Serving Institutions, provide information about job opportunities on Spanish language media, and work with community organizations to get the word out about available positions.

At DCAA, 66 percent of new auditor hires in fiscal year 2014 were Hispanic. As part of their overall recruiting efforts, their recruiters go to locations with large Latino populations, such as California, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Job-seekers get information about how to apply for positions through USAJOBS, and the agency works with its employee resource group to help with recruiting efforts.

NASA uses our Pathways program for students and recent graduates to help them bring Hispanic employees, among others, into the agency. Its employee resource group works with the agency to assist efforts to mentor and guide the students and recent graduates as they develop their Federal career. As part of its overall retention and advancement efforts, NASA also has Hispanic Employment Program Managers at all of its 11 field centers and at headquarters in Washington, D.C.

These are just a few examples of the great work agencies are doing across government to fulfill the President’s vision of a more inclusive Federal workforce. OPM will continue to work with its partners across government to make progress.

Group of three rows of Pathways participants

In 2010, the President laid down a challenge to his Administration: hire 100,000 people with disabilities into the Federal workforce within five years. This was one of the many ways the President has demonstrated his strong commitment to broadening career opportunities for people with disabilities, and I’m happy to report we are making steady progress toward meeting that important goal.

With one year of data still to analyze, we are on track. From 2011 to 2014, the Federal government hired nearly 72,000 full-time permanent employees with disabilities. When we add in part-time permanent employees, the number is nearly 80,500. And, if we include temporary employees, the total is more than 115,000.

OPM’s latest report on the employment of people with disabilities shows that at the end of fiscal year 2014, there were more people with disabilities working in the Federal government – by percentage share and by real numbers – than at any time since we started record-keeping 34 years ago. In the past year alone, the share of people with disabilities in the Federal workforce went from 12.8 percent to 13.6 percent. Of the new hires of people with disabilities, 16.4 percent were at the GS 14 and 15 levels.

I’m proud of the work we have done with agencies across government to help make this happen. We are also looking to improve on these totals. We will share the data from fiscal year 2015 when it’s ready.

This infographic accompanies the FY2014 Report on the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities in the Federal Executive Branch.   Title:  The President's Challenge: Hire 100,000 People with Disabilities in 5 Years   Middle section: From 2011 to 2014: •	71,967 full-time permanent employees with disabilities •	80,469 full-time and part-time permanent employees with disabilities •	115,221 all permanent and temporary employees with disabilities  Bottom section:  Transforming Leadership: 16.4% of new hires of people with disabilities were GS-14s and GS-15s  Visual in the bottom right corner is a stylized organization chart of one larger human icon with three smaller human icons as subordinates.   The bottom of the page contains the main URL:   OPM.GOV 

This important story is about more than numbers. By demonstrating our commitment to providing equal employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities, we are also tapping into a talent pool that enriches the 2-million strong Federal workforce.

In my view, we need people with disabilities in every agency and at every level of Federal service if the government is going to provide the excellent service that the American people expect and deserve. We cannot fulfill our mission without such diversity.

As encouraging as the numbers are, our work is not done. We need to make sure that after we hire these accomplished and motivated employees, they have opportunities for advancement. We need to do more to provide them with training and mentoring. We need to focus on retaining them in Federal service.

We’re holding leaders accountable. We’re working with agencies and affinity groups to build mentoring programs, because we know how important great mentors are to fostering confidence and success. And, we are committed to working with agencies in an effort to provide people with disabilities the reasonable accommodations they need to do their jobs.

I want to thank the team at OPM and all those throughout the Federal service who have been working diligently to fulfill the President’s vision of a workforce that is a model employer for people with disabilities. We will continue to make this effort a priority as we sustain and improve on these results.

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