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As I work to make sure we continue to build a model workforce for the 21st Century, I have been traveling around the country meeting with Federal employees, college students, faculty members and community leaders to learn from their experiences. This week, I spent some time in Silicon Valley talking to technology industry leaders about recruiting, retaining and engaging our employees.
What I learned is that cutting-edge companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google share many of the same goals and face many of the same challenges we do. The leaders I met with shared some compelling insights based on their experiences. We also shared best practices that are common to private industry and government.
Like the Federal government, businesses in Silicon Valley are competing for the best talent in their fields. And also like us, they know that attracting and retaining talent is vital. Each company has found its own, innovative way to tackle these challenges. One executive I met with talked about the need to find qualified candidates where they are. Another said that his company uses staff to act as recruiters on their own social networks.
It makes sense in today’s media environment to find ways to reach potential employees across social media platforms. We need to target qualified candidates by using the communications tools that they are already using. In order to recruit the most talented candidates in the hyper-competitive Silicon Valley environment, employers aggressively pursue candidates rather than wait for applicants to come to them.
Just as diversity is one of my highest priorities, the same is true in Silicon Valley. I talked with officials at several companies about how important it is to have a diverse and inclusive workforce. Many of these firms are using similar tactics. Some work with underprivileged and underrepresented communities to cultivate interest in IT and related fields from an early age. Most rely heavily on internship programs as a pipeline for talent. And others turn to advocacy groups to help recruit to underrepresented groups.
Officials at these companies also agree with me that an engaged workforce is vital. They are looking for creative ways to not only improve the workplace culture, but to use that culture to attract talent.
Some technology companies use an equivalent of our Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to provide insights into employee morale and job satisfaction and as a vehicle for employee feedback. Company officials know that employees who believe in their mission and see a collegial workplace will want and encourage others to join them.
These companies really are a lot like the Federal government. We have the same goals and the same challenges. Our collaboration can only help to make our own efforts that more powerful.
My conversations with these companies, and others like them, are just beginning. We have agreed to maintain an ongoing dialogue and to continue to share best practices to help each other be model employers of 21st century.
As millions of Americans are benefiting from quality, affordable health care because of the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, I want to let you know that OPM’s Multi-State Plan program is making a difference in the lives of nearly 300,000 people who have chosen this option in the health law’s Marketplace.
Representatives of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association told lawmakers at a recent congressional hearing that 283,783 consumers signed up for an MSP option during the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period.
I am so proud of this accomplishment, especially since this was our first year running this program compared to the more than 50 years that OPM has administered the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. In this first year of the MSP program, consumers in 30 states and the District of Columbia had a MSP option as part of their health coverage choices.
It’s exciting to see that OPM is making an impact on the Health Insurance Marketplace. OPM staff is working to ensure that MSP options offer comprehensive benefits with strong consumer protections. With the MSP program in place, uninsured Americans now have even more choices for affordable coverage that works for them.
In this first year, we contracted with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, a long-time FEHB partner to provide MSP options. But I am looking forward to welcoming additional MSP issuers in the future so we can add even more competition to the Marketplace.
So if you have friends or family members who have lost their health insurance because of a major life event, please refer them to the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov, the Spanish version of the site. And it won’t be long before the next open enrollment for the Marketplace begins on November 15, 2014.
And make sure to put in a plug for OPM’s MSP program!
At the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, we know how important it is to take care of all aspects of the health of our Federal family and their loved ones at every stage of live. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I want to use this blog to start an important conversation. To be at our best at work, at home, and in our communities, we need to be mentally and physically healthy. If not addressed, reactions to stress, mental illness or substance abuse can disrupt our lives and the lives of those we love. The good news is that help is available and treatment works. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those you believe need help. Sometimes all it takes to avert a crisis is offering to connect a struggling friend, family member or co-worker with assistance.
Here at OPM and at agencies throughout the Federal government, I want to make sure that every employee knows where to turn if the need arises. Our Employee Assistance Program has trained counselors available 24/7 at 800-222-0364 to help with individual, family or workplace problems. An EAP counselor is also available by appointment in the OPM health unit every Wednesday and Friday by calling (202) 606-2140. Marital difficulty, parenting challenges, financial stresses, grief and work performance concerns are among the many issues EAP addresses daily. If short term counseling is not enough, EAP can provide referrals for ongoing care. All services are confidential and free of charge. Find out more on the Federal Occupational Health’s website.
Federal employees, retirees and families can also access mental health services through their Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plans. FEHB insurance carriers cover in-patient and out-patient mental health care along with substance abuse treatment.
Sadly, in the last few years we have mourned the loss of too many Americans who take their own lives. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) provides immediate assistance, connecting callers to a trained counselor at a local crisis center anytime day or night. As with any other emergency, if someone is in immediate danger, call 911.
I know that mental health can be difficult to talk about, but starting the conversation is critical to taking care of ourselves, supporting each other and saving lives.
Today, OPM kicked off the 2014 Presidential Rank Awards (PRA) process by asking agencies to nominate distinguished members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) and Senior Level (SL)/Scientific or Professional (ST) employees. These prestigious awards recognize these SES and SL/ST employees for sustained accomplishments over a period of years.
Awards programs such as the Presidential Rank Awards encourage excellence in Federal service, recognizing the accomplishments of the dedicated, hard-working men and women of the civil service. Awards are given in recognition of scientific breakthroughs, improvements in the delivery of service to the American people, and work that has or will result in the saving of billions of dollars for taxpayers. For example, one PRA finalist developed and executed a new contracting strategy for purchasing renewable energy at the Department of Defense that is projected to save $20 million. In another example, a PRA finalist at the Department of Commerce created the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) comprised of 750 companies and 1,800 individuals who are collaborating with the Federal government in developing smart grid standards that will help improve the energy usage and efficiency across the country.
As leaders in their agencies, nominees serve as role models for the entire workforce and must meet stringent personal and professional standards. Agencies are asked to consider the current challenging fiscal conditions and resources needed to meet overall agency mission priorities in determining the number of nominations to submit. Further, to ensure the continued integrity of the SES and SL/ST awards programs, all agencies are required to develop plans for the consideration of conduct, where appropriate, when determining performance awards for members of the SES or SL/ST employees. These plans will be made public on the agencies’ websites by September 30.
For last year, budgetary considerations due to sequestration limited the PRA program from granting any monetary awards. However, a list of 2013 finalists was selected based on nominations, and their accomplishments are recognized for their national and often international significance. Finalists from the FY 2013 class of nominations remain eligible to be re-nominated for FY 2014.
The Presidential Rank Awards recognize the exemplary achievements of individuals in service to the Federal government and the American people. The PRA, like other awards programs, is important to the continued and future success of our world-class workforce, and it serves as a source of pride and inspiration to all of us.
I look forward to reviewing the outstanding nominations.
This past weekend I had the honor of giving my first ever commencement speech to the 2014 graduating class of the University of Texas at Brownsville. What a great event!
This time of year is one of celebrations for many families across America, including many of the children of our 2 million strong Federal workforce and some Federal employees who I know are working and going to school at the same time. Congratulations to you all.
While in Texas, I also had the chance to meet with students, faculty and community leaders in Brownsville and at the University of Texas at Pan American.
I told them why I’ve dedicated so much of my time in the past few months talking to students and educators like them. It’s simple: there is almost no more important people to reach than those who will become the our workforce of the future.
I wanted them to know about the many opportunities out there for them, whether they want to work in Texas, or California, or North Carolina. I wanted them to know that there are opportunities available now – Pathways internships and entry-level positions at the Department of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and the Army – all in Texas. I wanted them to consider public service.
Delivering a commencement speech can be intimidating. But this wonderful crowd of nearly 700 graduates and thousands of their families and friends was welcoming and inspiring. More than 90 percent of the UT Brownsville student body is Hispanic. And 70 percent of Saturday’s graduates were the first in their family to go to college. So was I.
Families and friends revel in the accomplishment of a college degree. But it can also come with some anxiety. What now? Where do I go from here? It can be a scary prospect. But also an exciting one.
I urged the graduates to take their time and when they are to ready think about the next step in their lives. I told them to refuse to take no for an answer, that if you never let go of what ignites your passions, you will find a way to do what you love.
I gave one final piece of advice to the UT Brownsville Class of 2014. It’s advice I gave my own workforce in my first week at OPM.
Don’t just think about what’s possible. Strive for the impossible.
You never know what you will accomplish.
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