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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 Facebook.com/OPMDirector. Also, find us on other social media channels.

Federal benefits open season is here. Each year we encourage all employees and retirees to review their benefits and make sure that they have plans that work best for them and their families. From today through December 14, employees and retirees can review and update their health, dental, and vision choices. Eligible employees who are not currently enrolled can also select plans for the first time. Retirees not currently enrolled in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP) can also select dental and vision plans for the first time during open season.

The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) covers over 8.2 million employees, retirees, and their families all across this country. For 2016, there will be 252 health plan choices available, with 11 of them available nationwide. 

Beginning in 2016, all carriers will offer three enrollment types: Self Only, Self Plus One, and Self and Family. This year is your first opportunity to enroll in Self Plus One, which allows you to cover yourself and one eligible family member, such as a spouse or child.

As always, we encourage you to look at all available health, dental, and vision plans and decide which ones best meet the needs of you and your family, as everyone’s needs are different. If you decide that your current coverage still works for you, you don’t have to do anything. Your benefits will remain in place for next year.

If you are eligible to sign up for the FEHB Program, you can also participate in FSAFEDS, the health and dependent care flexible spending account program. These accounts allow employees to set aside pre-tax money to pay for eligible health and dependent care expenses, such as co-pays, prescription costs and childcare.

Two changes were made to Health Care FSAs last year. Employees can enroll with just $100 contribution. Also, participants can re-enroll and carry over up to $500 of unused FSA money into the following year. This means that you won’t have to forfeit money you don’t use by the end of the calendar year.

If you want to participate in FSAFEDS, be sure to sign-up by December 14. When it comes to FSAFEDS, everyone must re-enroll on an annual basis. 

Don’t forget, employees and retirees have until December 14 to make their choices. For more information about the Federal benefits open season and to find the right option for you, visit opm.gov/openseason.

John O’Brien is the Director of Healthcare and Insurance for OPM.   

On left text that says 'sign up by.' On right calendar page image that says 'December 14.'


Championing diversity and inclusion in America’s Federal workforce is critical as we recruit and develop the talent we need to serve the American people. And OPM is working to encourage and help more Native Americans to join the Federal Government. As part of Native American Heritage Month, I was honored to participate yesterday in the White House Tribal Nations Conference to talk about this important topic.

The White House Council on Native American Affairs organized this conference to provide leaders from the 567 Federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact and discuss crucial issues with high-level Federal Government officials and members of the White House Council on Native American Affairs. The annual conference continues the President’s commitment to strengthen government-to-government relationships with Indian Country and to improve the lives of American Indians and Alaska Natives, with an emphasis on increasing opportunity for Native youth.

Native Americans make up 1.7 percent of the Federal workforce and 1.2 percent of the Senior Executive Service. However, the majority of Native American employees are employed by two agencies – the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service. OPM is determined to help agencies broaden the representation of Native Americans across government and at all levels of service.

One way we are doing that is by directly reaching out to students in Native American communities and get them interested in Federal service. We have strong relationships with Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU), and other colleges and universities with a high representation of Native American students. Our recruiting and hiring team works with them to educate students about employment opportunities and careers with the Federal Government.

This year alone we have provided in-person workshops at twelve Tribal Colleges and Universities on how to find and apply for our Pathways programs for interns and recent graduates as well as other hiring programs. We also provided briefings to five universities with high representation of Native American students, including New Mexico State University, Portland State University, the University of Colorado, Boulder, and California State University, Sacramento. And OPM regularly partners with the Society of America Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) to provide internship opportunities throughout government.

As part of the President’s Management Agenda, we are also helping agencies better use data and partnerships to drive their recruitment strategies. This support will allow agencies to provide opportunities for mentorship and leadership development for under-represented groups. OPM is also working with agencies to ensure that they implement their agency-specific Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plans, which will include addressing under representation of Native Americans where it exists.

These and many more efforts are underway here at OPM and across the Federal Government to make sure that we are drawing from communities all across the country when we recruit the best to serve the American people.

Joining the White House Tribal Nations Conference was one way for me to commemorate Native American Heritage Month. It is my hope that the continued efforts of the President and agencies government-wide will not only increase the representation of Native Americans, but also broaden their leadership and the value that we put on what these Americans bring to the table.


Four people sit on state at White House Tribal Nations Conference. Beth Cobert is the last person on the right.

“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 OPM.gov 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.


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