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As we begin a month-long commemoration of National Women’s History Month, I’m glad that this year’s theme honors women in public service. It’s a perfect time for us to reflect on the accomplishments of women in government who succeeded, often against great odds. It’s also the right time to recommit ourselves to encouraging the next generation of women leaders
The National Women’s History Project has named 15 women who it says “have shaped America’s history and its future through their public service and government leadership.” Included in this accomplished group are four women who dedicated their lives to Federal service:
From young women in high school and college studying such critical skills as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) to women in mid-career, it’s important that government reach out, as part of its overall recruitment efforts, and encourage them to join in serving the American people. OPM is committed to helping agencies find and develop the talent to follow in the footsteps of the distinguished leaders we honor this month.
We are working with agencies to identify and remove any barriers that managers may face in recruiting the diverse talent they need, including women. Through OPM initiatives like Executive Women in Motion, we are bringing aspiring women leaders together with mentors who can help them and encourage them to become members of the Senior Executive Service.
OPM issues guidance to agencies to help promote the policies that help women – and men – balance the needs of their families and the responsibilities of their jobs. This includes such workplace flexibilities as telework and alternative work schedules.
OPM also provides data on the continued narrowing of the pay gap in the Federal workforce. In 1992, Federal women in white-collar jobs made 70-cents on the dollar compared to men. The most recent data we have show that by 2012 that number was 87 cents. Women in Federal leadership positions are doing even better. In 2012, these women were paid 99.2 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts.
Working with the Department of Justice, OPM is also helping agencies develop strategies and training to increase awareness of and help colleagues support victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, and Stalking.
As the President said in his proclamation recognizing March as Women’s History Month, “We have come far, but there is still far to go in shattering the glass ceiling that holds women back. This month, as we reflect on the marks made by women throughout history, let us uphold the responsibility that falls on all of us -- regardless of gender -- and fight for equal opportunity for our daughters as well as our sons.”
OPM, like other agencies across government, will set aside time this month to celebrate the achievements of women in Federal service. I want to thank all Federal employees for the work they do every day to fulfill their missions to serve the American people.
Job seekers looking for a Federal job on USAJOBS.gov will find new and improved features this week! These enhancements are the first in a comprehensive redesign that over the coming months will transform USAJOBS.gov into a more user-friendly website.
Beginning this month, improvements to the application process will make applying for Federal jobs easier for applicants. In addition to improving the usability of the website and the overall application system, these changes will increase the number of completed applications agencies receive, which will further enhance a fair and open competition for Federal Government jobs.
To help OPM make changes that will improve the user experience on USAJOBS, we reached out to job seekers from across the United States, engaged human capital and human resources specialists across government, and sought the advice of top usability and design experts. As a result, the updates feature new capabilities, including a tracker that will allow job seekers to follow the progress of their applications from beginning to end. Other enhancements include:
Reviewing required documents for a desired position without leaving the application process
Managing resumes or other documents during the application process
Saving progress on a pending application
The primary purpose of these improvements is to create a more user-friendly application experience. Research conducted by OPM found that for some applicants, applying for a job can be difficult and frustrating, which drives some to abandon their applications or submit incomplete applications. The revised job application features are designed to more clearly communicate the steps applicants are expected to complete and guide them through a step-by-step process in completing an application package that can then seamlessly be transferred to an agency.
USAJOBS will continue to provide updates on new features, and how these changes will benefit website users. OPM has begun testing additional features that will be integrated into the website throughout the rest of the year. Those changes will be incorporated on the website on a rolling basis and will be designed to continue improving job seekers’ experience when applying for Federal Government jobs.
Visit www.USAJOBS.gov to learn more and to start applying today.
The People and Culture pillar of the President’s Management Agenda emphasizes the need to develop and sustain an engaged, innovative, and productive Federal workforce. Strengthening employee engagement was also the subject of a joint White House-Office of Personnel Management memorandum.
“We believe that employee engagement is a leading indicator of performance and should be a focus for all levels of an agency - from the front line employee to the agency head. Employee engagement is not only a Human Resources function, but a cross-cutting leadership effort that is directly tied to mission success,” the December 23, 2014, memorandum states.
To further this goal, we are sharing a white paper on employee engagement entitled, “Engaging the Federal Workforce: How to Do It & Prove It.” To access the paper, login to www.unlocktalent.gov and go to the Community of Practice page.
The paper summarizes OPM’s review of classic and recent employee engagement research, including definitions, models, measurement practices, and interventions. The paper then presents a definition of employee engagement as it specifically relates to the Federal workforce:
“Employee engagement is the employee's sense of purpose that is evident in their display of dedication, persistence, and effort in their work or overall attachment to their organization and its mission,” the paper states.
Of particular interest for Federal agencies is that the white paper examines the key drivers influencing Federal employee engagement. The research spotlights the important role that performance feedback, collaborative management, support for merit system principles, training and development opportunities, and work-life balance can have in developing a workforce that is more innovative, productive, committed, satisfied, and more likely to remain at their job.
While in 2015 the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey’s Employee Engagement index increased for the first time in three years, there are still substantial opportunities to improve this important workplace indicator. In releasing this white paper, we hope that OPM’s new Federal definition and model will serve as a foundation for capturing and sharing best practices to drive and sustain future employee engagement efforts.
The President’s fiscal year 2017 budget and Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) released this week makes it clear that this Administration is committed to taking bold actions to protect Americans in today’s fast-moving digital world.
For OPM, the President’s budget proposal provides additional funding to continue the progress of enhancing our cybersecurity posture as well as modernizing our IT systems to meet evolving cybersecurity challenges.
During the past year, OPM acquired and deployed new cybersecurity tools that enhance our ability to rapidly identify and respond to emerging cyber threats. We also built a new modern infrastructure that strengthens the security of the environment to house our systems. The resources in the President’s spending plan will help us accelerate the movement of OPM’s current systems to this new, enhanced security infrastructure. Completing this migration will be a major step forward for OPM.
The CNAP roadmap will better enable OPM to build on our cybersecurity partnerships across government and will fortify our efforts to empower agencies to hire the cyber talent they need.
First, CNAP calls for the kind of increased collaboration between agencies that OPM has already established with DHS’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and other government partners to proactively take steps to enforce and enhance network security infrastructures.
The CNAP takes this collaboration a step further by directing DHS and the General Services Administration to increase the availability of government-wide shared services for information technology and cybersecurity.
The President wants to take individual agencies like OPM out of the business of building their own new security services or capabilities when there is an opportunity to leverage the collective strength and power of the Federal Government.
Second, the CNAP places a strong emphasis on enhancing cybersecurity education and training across the country, enabling Federal agencies to hire more cybersecurity experts now, and into the future.
A critical element of OPM’s mission is to provide agencies with the assistance and tools they need to recruit, hire, and retain cybersecurity talent. As part of this work that is already underway, OPM hosted a cybersecurity talent summit this week where we brought together human capital specialists from throughout the Federal Government to learn what tools and flexibilities can help them attract the employees they need.
The President’s budget invests in several CNAP initiatives that will help support OPM’s efforts and help create a pipeline of cybersecurity experts. These include expanding the Scholarship for Service program by establishing scholarships for Americans who want to pursue a cybersecurity education and serve their country by joining the Federal workforce. The initiative would also establish a cybersecurity core curriculum and enhance student loan forgiveness programs for cybersecurity experts who enter Federal service.
As OPM continues its journey to transform its information technology infrastructure and help agencies bring on board the talent they require to bolster their cyber workforce, we will benefit from the resources included in the President’s FY 2017 spending plan as well as the national cybersecurity mission outlined in the Cybersecurity National Action Plan.
Customer service is at the core of everything we do at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The President’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal released this week embraces that core principle and provides additional funding for OPM’s efforts to improve customer service for Federal retirees and their families.
Each year, more than 1.5 million current or retired Federal employees and their families call OPM’s Retirement Services team with a wide range of questions. We also receive more than 280,000 questions via email and more than 100,000 new retirement claims each year. Requests for assistance range from tax questions to inquiries about what happens when a Federal retiree has passed away. And we hear from Federal employees who have detailed questions at each step in the retirement process.
Each of these interactions is important, and every one of these individuals is entitled to a timely, accurate, and detailed response. At OPM, we are consistently working to improve the quality of this experience for our customers. The President’s budget provides additional funding to help us decrease the amount of time a customer has to wait to talk to a representative or get a response to their email. And, the added resources will help us reduce the time it takes to process a retirement claim.
At Retirement Services, 80 percent of our budget is devoted to personnel. But, at certain times in the year that is not enough and we need to add to our customer service staff to help handle spikes in retirement claims.
For example, the beginning of each year is the busiest, with 26 percent of retirement claims being filed during the first six weeks of the year. In January, we brought detailees on board from the human resources retirement sections of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) to help us handle the dramatic increase in claims.
While we certainly benefit from the dedication of these public servants, their service also improves the entire retirement process. When they return to their home agencies, they bring with them increased knowledge of our process, enabling them to better prepare retirement claims for processing by OPM.
We are constantly working to improve the customer experience. We are administering surveys and analyzing the data to identify customer service trends and to zero in on areas where improvement and change is needed. We are also updating our training and are tracking the progress of employees who take our customer service courses.
Retirement Services is also consistently upgrading and adding features to our Retirement Services Online website servicesonline.opm.gov and providing web-based tutorials for customers. Retirees can use the website to update their mailing addresses, change their Federal and state income tax withholding designations, request a duplicate annuity booklet or print their Retirement Services ID card. The more retirees and their families turn to our online services for basic needs, the quicker our team can respond to more complex questions.
We want the customer service experience to be excellent for each Federal employee who has served this great nation and deserves to receive accurate and timely benefits. The President’s FY2017 budget will help us deliver on this important goal.
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