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As we head into the busy holiday season, I want to take a moment to thank my OPM family and the entire Federal workforce for your incredible work, passion, and dedication to serving the American people.
I am very thankful that in my first year as Director of OPM, I have been able to meet so many of you across the country and see firsthand the work you do. The commitment you all have to the missions of your agencies is plain to see. Here at OPM, I see that passion and drive every day, and I am incredibly thankful for the best team I could have possibly asked for. I especially want to recognize those families who are apart from their loved ones this year. So many public servants and military service members will spend this holiday season far away from home. We honor and appreciate their sacrifices and look forward to their safe return home.
And I wish a safe journey to all of you who will be traveling over the holiday. As for me, I will be at home in Colorado with my husband and our daughter, Graciela, celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. I will be thinking about how thankful I am to be able to work with all of you on making Federal service the best it can be.
One of our greatest challenges at OPM is to help agencies grow and develop our Federal leaders of the future. That is why I convened a series of Thought Leader talks this fall, and I’m pleased to report that the three sessions provided us with new information, inspiration, and vision to guide OPM in meeting that challenge.
The sessions brought together leaders from government, business, academia and global organizations to talk about the future of leadership and how we can address challenges and opportunities. We focused on millennials because we know that they are the future of the American workforce, as well as innovative new practices around leadership development, assessment and engagement. And while we have to think about the leaders of today and those who will come after them, we must also plan for tomorrow.
We also talked about how work may take many new forms in the coming years. In our first session, we discussed how email could be replaced by new forms of communication. We talked about working more virtually. If the current move toward telework continues, virtual work will increase, with some employees never stepping foot in a traditional office.
We are already starting to use new technologies to be more strategic in our recruiting. Many organizations, including the U.S. Army, are turning to a new type of assessment for applicants. Instead of just analyzing resumes, managers are using a situation-based simulation that allow them to assess an applicant’s choices and skills. It’s one of the most innovative and useful tools I’ve seen in the recruiting realm.
Most importantly, we examined leadership. We discussed how we need to look at leadership differently. Leaders must be outcome-driven to be successful. That includes judging those who work for us on what they do well rather than on what they do poorly. Marcus Buckingham, a noted business consultant and thinker, led an impressive discussion on his strategy of emphasizing employee strengths for assessment of performance management and engagement. Marcus talked about the value of focusing on coaching to help employees succeed in their jobs and grow in their careers. It’s a different way of thinking, and it is one of the discussions that made the biggest impact on me.
Each one of these sessions inspired my thinking about how I will help managers across government grow and develop our talented and hard-working Federal workforce. We already have begun work on several initiatives to strengthen our leadership pipeline, including a Senior Executive Service mentoring program, a coaching network, and a special onboarding web page for new members of the SES.
I look forward to convening more sessions in the future. The dialogue we fostered was meaningful for every member of the group. And we helped each other bring our own worlds closer together. We are all determined to recruit, develop, and retain the leaders of tomorrow.
One of the Chief Human Capital Officers attending the sessions summed it up best. As we were leaving Tuesday’s final talk, she told me that the Thought Leader talks were the most important set of professional discussions she had ever been a part of.
I totally agree.
It’s open season time again, and I want to make sure you have all of the answers you need to your questions about your Federal benefits to help you make these important decisions.
At 11 a.m. on Monday, November 24, 2014, OPM is hosting a special Google Hangouts question and answer session. Four of OPM’s program experts will be available to answer your questions on health care, vision, dental, and flexible spending account benefits.
During open season, FEHB participants need to decide whether to keep their current health plans or change them. You should review the FEDVIP options and consider whether to enroll in FSAFEDS for the following year. If you are eligible to enroll in the FEHB program but do not currently participate, you can sign up for the first time.
To prepare for the Google Hangout and to help get familiar with the choices available to you, I suggest you check out the Circle ‘Round Your Benefits, Plan Comparison, and Plan Smart Choice tools. We want to help you make the best choice for you and your family.
The questions and answer session should address any questions you have about the benefits you have available to you and also any features in the plans. Changes for the coming year include a lower minimum deposit requirement for the FSAFEDS Program. You can also roll over up to $500 to the following year.
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 8 deadline.
Ask your question on Twitter or the Google Hangout page using hashtag #FedBenefits. Start asking them now and tune in to see if your question is answered. And be sure to join us on Monday.
By now, we’ve all heard of the Great American Smokeout. The national event, organized by the American Cancer Society, encourages Americans to make a plan to quit smoking or to make November 20 the first day of a cigarette-free life. I couldn’t agree more. What a great moment to give yourself the gift of health and long life!
The 2013 Federal Employee Benefits Survey (FEBS) Tobacco Use Report showed that six out of 10 Federal employees who currently smoke are considering quitting. We want to help you get there.
The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program offers resources to help employees stop smoking, including free tobacco cessation counseling and medications. To take advantage of this benefit, check out the details on our Quit Smoking Resource Page. Be sure to talk to your doctor about which approach is best for you.
Quitting provides immediate and long-term health benefits. It’s one of the most important things you can do to protect your own health and your family’s well-being. It can lower your chances of getting many serious diseases, including heart disease, lung disease, infections, osteoporosis, and many types of cancer.
I also urge you to reach out to teenaged children who may be struggling with smoking. Teenagers know that tobacco is bad for them. What they may not know is that even the first few cigarettes can cause real damage. The Department of Health and Human Services’ “The Real Cost” campaign aims to reduce the number of teens who experiment with smoking and become lifelong tobacco users. The campaign gives them the facts so that they can judge for themselves.
So if you are considering quitting, you have already taken the first step toward health. And if you’ve tried before, there’s no better time to try again. You are not alone and you can succeed. Take advantage of the many free and convenient programs the FEHB offers.
Today is the day to take your first step towards a smoke-free life.
Five years ago, President Obama signed an Executive Order that created Pathways, a group of internship programs that serve as a clear expression of the value the Federal government places on recruiting and retaining students and recent college graduates for public service careers. These programs are also shining examples of one of my highest priorities as Director of OPM – to create a skilled federal workforce that reflects the diversity of the American people.
On Monday, OPM hosted its first Pathways Programs Day, a comprehensive training event held at NIH for current Pathways participants. We brought them together to discuss the future of the Federal workforce and to receive information about skills training and continuing education opportunities. These young people also heard from some remarkable public servants who credit their success, in part, to their participation in Pathways.
Pathways includes three programs: an internship for current students; the Recent Graduates Program for people who have graduated within the past two years, and the Presidential Management Fellows Program for people who have received an advanced graduate or professional degree in the past two years.
One of our panelists Monday was Nigel Simon. Nigel began his Federal service as a Pathways intern and is now a member of the Senior Executive Service. He works at the EPA. Raised in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Nigel’s 17-year Federal career began when he went to USAJOBS.gov and applied for the forerunner of Pathways, the Student Career Experience Program.
Nigel said the skills he developed in Pathways helped prepare him for his career. He has worked for a variety of offices at the EPA, including in the New York City region, which covers his home in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. When Nigel spoke with Pathways participants on Monday, he urged them to follow one of his early mentor’s advice: Soak up as much as you can from each experience you have.
Today Nigel pays forward that early mentoring he got by serving as a mentor himself, to students and young hires just entering public service. “I do one shadow assignment every six months,” Nigel said.
Channing Martin, a native of Washington, D.C., started her Federal career as an intern at OPM. She used Pathways to rise to the next level, securing an apprenticeship working with our SES team, the CHCO and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “I had a rotation set up and got a lot of experience that way,” she said.
After she received her graduate degree, Channing became a Presidential Management Fellow. Today, she still works at OPM, helping to recruit and award applicants to that Pathways program. She specializes in recruiting from the STEM disciplines -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
I think I will give Channing the last word about Pathways for those just starting their careers in public service or preparing to go to the next level.
“From my grad school, the Big Five consulting firms are coveted,’’ Channing said. “I want the Federal government to be regarded that way.”
So do I Channing. Showcasing our successful and talented public servants like Nigel and Channing will help us get the word out about our remarkable employees and the terrific Pathways programs that provide an entry to the satisfying work of public service.
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