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On Wednesday, OPM brought its annual small business conference to Morgan State University’s Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management in the heart of Baltimore. There I met Jackie Boone.
Her story is a perfect example of the work OPM and the Administration are doing in communities all across the country to help entrepreneurs grow and develop their businesses.
Jackie founded Boonerang Consulting, a Baltimore company that provides insurance, management, and facilities consulting services, primarily to government clients.
As part of the Administration’s efforts to support entrepreneurs like Jackie, this past summer a Federal team from across government encouraged Goldman Sachs to increase its small business development efforts in Baltimore HUBZone communities. With help from the Small Business Administration and Baltimore City Hall, Goldman selected five local businesses to enroll in its 10,000 Small Business Initiative program. This 13-week national program helps small business leaders develop and grow their companies. It’s just the kind of public-private partnership that the Administration is spearheading across the country.
Boonerang Consulting was one of the businesses chosen. The program, Jackie says, helped transform her 7-year old business. It provided her with a clear growth plan, including how she could expand into the private sector market and connecting her with new clients and a national network of business experts.
Events like OPM’s, she says, “are well worth my time, even if I get just one new piece of information.” And Wednesday, she said, she got a lot more than that.
Entrepreneurs like Jackie are the very business owners we are trying to reach, especially in inner cities like Baltimore and at campuses like Morgan State.
I’m very proud that OPM is the first Federal agency to partner with an Historically Black College to host its small business event. It was a great match. In all of our work at OPM – whether in helping agencies hire the best talent or working with our small business contractors – we stress the importance of diversity and inclusion, which is also a key priority for the President.
At Wednesday’s event, OPM’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, seven other government agencies and six private sector firms were on hand to help local business owners learn what they need to do to successfully bid for government contracts.
In fiscal year 2014, the Federal Government awarded nearly $92 billion in small business contracts. And, in fiscal year 2015, OPM surpassed its goal of awarding 25 percent of our contracts to small businesses. In fact, last year we awarded more than one third - 34 percent – of our contracts to small businesses.
Events like our small business conference in Baltimore not only help inform business owners like Jackie about the Federal contracting process and what they can do to compete, they help OPM and our fellow agencies learn what more we must do to help work with and support the American economy’s fastest-growing sector – small business.
Of the many things OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) reveals, one thing is clear: The more agencies across government engage and include their employees, the more satisfied, productive, and motivated the workforce becomes.
I was glad to be part of a celebration Tuesday of the agencies that have taken that message to heart and either rank highest or have shown the most improvement in the Partnership for Public Services’ Best Places to Work in Government report. The Partnership’s report is based on the great work OPM does to produce the FEVS and analyze the survey’s results.
Whether it was the Department of Labor, whose score went up 4.4 points, or the Housing and Urban Development, whose score increased by 8 points, or the Federal Maritime Commission, whose score rose by nearly 15 points, there was continued progress this year.
And congratulations to NASA, which maintained its top ranking among large agencies; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which was on top among mid-size agencies; and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which led the way among small agencies as the best places to work, according to the Partnership’s report.
Progress and results like this do not happen by accident. It takes hard work and leadership throughout an organization, and I salute the agencies across government that have taken this challenge seriously.
At OPM we provide leaders and managers a suite of tools to help them improve employee engagement. For example, the FEVS survey provides valuable data. This year, OPM produced more than 26,000 agency- and office-level reports, up from 21,000 last year. And those reports were sent to agencies a month ahead of schedule.
Having data at this micro-level allows managers to drill down into the information and learn what engagement strategies worked and where more work needs to be done to unlock the full potential of the Federal workforce.
We know that employee engagement is a leading indicator of excellent performance. To help leaders most effectively use the FEVS data to enhance engagement, OPM created an interactive tool we call UnlockTalent.gov. We are continually refining and updating that dashboard, and for the first time this year, the public was given access to this valuable information.
OPM has also created an index we call the New Inclusion Quotient – or New IQ. This initiative is designed to help employees and managers foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace. So far, more than 15,000 Federal employees have taken our training on how to create and sustain a diverse and inclusive workforce.
And more data analysis is coming. OPM’s policy analysts have drilled down into the FEVS data to determine the key factors that influence employee engagement. We will soon be providing agencies with a full analysis, but I can report that we found that the five main drivers of employee engagement are: meaningful performance feedback conversations; management styles that foster communication and collaboration; adherence to merit system principles; employee training and development, and work/life balance.
At OPM we are committed to providing leaders and managers across government with the tools they need to create and maintain an engaged, inclusive, diverse, and talent Federal workforce that can best deliver on its mission to serve the American people.
With the December 14 deadline for Federal employees and retirees to make benefit changes quickly approaching, I want to make sure you have all of the answers you need to make the best possible decisions for you and your family.
Today at 1:30 p.m. ET, OPM will host a special #FedBenefits Twitter chat. OPM program experts will answer your questions on health care, vision, dental, and flexible spending account benefits.
As I mentioned last month, beginning in 2016 all carriers will offer three enrollment types: Self Only, Self Plus One, and Self and Family. This Open Season 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.
During the Twitter chat, our experts can clarify terms and help you compare plan features. It’s the perfect way to make sure you have the best information at your fingertips to make a decision by the December 14 deadline.
Just join us at 1:30 p.m. today on Twitter at www.twitter.com/USOPM and tweet your questions using hashtag #FedBenefits. We’ll get to as many questions as we can during the hour. Also, you can tweet your questions in advance of the event.
And of course, you don’t have to wait until the Twitter chat to get answers. Any time between now and the deadline, you can go to www.opm.gov/openseason or speak to your local HR office to get the latest information.
John O’Brien is the Director of Healthcare and Insurance for OPM.
I’m pleased to report that we have established a verification center to help individuals who have had their information stolen in the malicious cyber intrusion carried out against the Federal Government.
This verification center will help those who believe their data may have been taken but have not received a notification letter from the government. The center will also assist individuals who have received a letter letting them know they were impacted by the background investigation records intrusion, but who have lost the PIN code that allows them to sign up for the free services that the Federal Government is providing.
The notification process is still underway. We are sending out about 800,000 notification letters each day and we are on schedule to finish the mailing in the next two weeks. If you do not receive a letter by the middle of December, either the government could not identify a valid address for you after using both government and commercial data sources, or our records indicated that your Social Security Number was not compromised in the intrusion.
So far nearly 1.2 million individuals have enrolled in the credit monitoring and identity protection services that the Federal Government is offering for three years, free of charge, to those individuals whose data was taken, and to their minor dependent children.
We want to make sure that all those impacted are notified and have the opportunity to take advantage of these services. So I urge anyone who has not received a letter by the middle of this month and who believes his or her data may have been taken, to reach out to the verification center so we can confirm your correct address and send you a letter. Once you submit your information, you should receive a response in about two-to-four weeks.
You can access the online verification center through a link at OPM’s cybersecurity resource center – www.opm.gov/cybersecurity. Or, you may call 866-408-4555 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., Eastern Time, to speak to an agent.
OPM and our partners across government continue to work hard every day to protect the safety and security of the information of Federal employees, contractors, and others who provide their information to us. The verification center is one more way we are working to help those who were impacted by the background investigation intrusion receive the services available to them.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with our loved ones, I want to take a moment to thank each and every Federal employee for their hard work and dedication to serving the American people. I also want them to thank them for their continued support of the Combined Federal Campaign.
Each year, Federal employees show their generosity by signing up for a payroll deduction to help fund the thousands of charities that comprise the CFC, which is the largest and most successful workplace fundraising campaign in the world. In the past 50 years – half a century – the CFC has raised $7 billion.
Behind that $7 billion, are personal stories of people who have been helped by a CFC charity or who are motivated to donate because at some point in their lives they or a loved one were touched by a charitable organization.
Here at OPM, one of our human resource specialists who works at our Boyers, Pennsylvania facility, had leukemia as a child. After going through extensive treatments at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, a charity came forward and put a little joy and magic in her life. She was able to go to Disney World and as a sixth-grader was given the chance to sing the National Anthem at a Pittsburgh Pirates game. To this day, she targets her CFC contribution to the charity that helped her at a pivotal point in her life.
One Department of Defense employee found out last year that her mother had a serious and aggressive illness. Because of the universal giving feature of the CFC, which allows donors to contribute to charities all across the country, this Federal worker was able to give back to a local organization that helped her mother through this difficult time.
I’m sure each one of you has heard similar stories and may well have one of your own that you could share.
The point is, as we are all sitting around the Thanksgiving table this year, I hope we will remember those who may be spending this holiday in need.
For those of you who are Federal employees and have not made a contribution to this year’s CFC campaign, I hope you will take a few minutes and go to www.opm.gov/cfc. This website has information about this year’s campaign, a list of the charities that are part of the CFC, and links to the CFC campaign in your area. Please consider signing up for a payroll deduction. No contribution is too small.
And even if you are not in Federal service, I hope you’ll find a way to support causes you believe in throughout the year.
I wish you all the best this holiday season.
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