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Speeches & Remarks Society of American Indian Government Employees

Remarks of OPM Director Katherine Archuleta

Society of American Indian Government Employees

June 11, 2014

As prepared for delivery

Thank you Susan for your leadership of SAIGE and for inviting me to speak today.

It's great to be back in Albuquerque. I want to congratulate you on your 11th annual training program. You are addressing some very important issues surrounding leadership, diversity and management.

I love getting out of Washington, especially when I get to speak with and learn from Federal employees.  The first thing I want to do is say thank you for the hard work you do every day to serve the American people. This is something I cannot repeat enough.

Recently I traveled to the Silicon Valley to talk with high tech companies about recruiting and engagement. Their campuses are just like what you hear about. They practically pick up their employees and take them to work. They feed them, they water them, give them bicycles, a gym. I asked one of the leaders how he thinks I could possibly compete with that. He said you can't compete with that. He's right. I can't compete with the carrying and watering and feeding and bicycling and the corporate lunches.

And then he said to me that where you can compete and you can actually win, is the fact that your workers have a noble purpose, that the work that they do every day is purpose driven. It's not about the bottom line. It's about the top line of service. So I can compete. We all can compete.

This morning, I want to share with you what we are doing at OPM to make sure that agencies across government have the tools they need to compete. I want to talk to you about how we are reviewing and improving every process – from resume to retirement – to make sure we do a better job recruiting, training and developing a world-class Federal workforce. I also want to talk to you about diversity, and about how you can help me attract and recruit Native Americans. OPM has an important role in helping agencies across government to efficiently, effectively and quickly hire the personnel they need to serve the American people.

I have been traveling throughout the United States in the seven months that I have been OPM Director. The messages I hear from Federal employees in the field, in my outreach calls, or in my brown bag lunches are the same: They want more opportunities. They want training. They want clear career paths. Managers and supervisors want better and more flexible hiring tools.

I have listened. And I'm acting.

OPM is developing enhancements to the Federal hiring process that give agencies the flexibility they need. We are finding the knots in the hiring processes and untying them. We are reviewing OPM policies to help managers get the talent they need.

I have been meeting with Cabinet secretaries and agency leaders and I have given them individualized tool kits that get at the heart of their human resource problems, opportunities and needs. And we are giving those responsible for hiring valuable information about how they can attract high quality applicants. We're developing new outreach and marketing strategies. We're making job announcements clearer, more understandable and more compelling.

And we're expanding our reach to job applicants by increasing our use of Social Media. We need to engage and be a player in today's digital employment marketplace.

I'm really excited about a new applicant tool kit that we are launching this summer. This one-stop shopping website for those seeking Federal employment will provide everything from tips on how to write a resume for a Federal job to information about our Pathways programs. Job seekers will be able to link to USAJOBS and all its resources right from this applicant site.

I know that it is not enough to bring aboard and develop top talent. We must make sure that Federal employees are fully engaged in the workplace. When I talk with Federal workers, I hear so many great suggestions about how to make government work better, how to innovate. And sometimes, their ideas don't neatly fit into the description of their current role.

So at OPM we have developed something we call GovConnect. GovConnect looks at work in a new, exciting way. The idea is to deploy a more mobile, agile and innovative workforce. We want to encourage agencies to test out some strategies that will let their employees apply their skills and expertise to something that is not in their comfort zone.

We're already started piloting this idea. At HUD, employees used a program called Innovation Time. They broke away from their usual responsibilities and spent up to four hours a week on projects they were passionate about.  One HUD team in the field created an App that helps people find affordable housing. HUD is piloting that app now in Portland, Oregon and in Minneapolis.

At OPM, during Public Service Recognition Week, we asked employees what they would do with 4 hours a week to make OPM a better place. We got great ideas and are moving ahead with our own GovConnect pilot. These are just a few of the initiatives we've begun. And there's more to come.

As I said, I also want to talk to you today about what we are doing to build a Federal workforce for the 21st Century that looks like America and one that better seeks out the talent, wisdom and experience of Native Americans.

This is not a new issue for me. For eight years, I had the honor of being a member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian Arts. I also was the executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation here in Albuquerque. Being an IAIA trustee gave me a deeper understanding of the richness of both the history and the culture of the Native American community. Living in Albuquerque opened my eyes to the influences Native people have on not just the culture, but the economy of this state and this region.

My experiences also gave me an appreciation of the many issues the Native American community faces as it continues to strengthen its own people. It also showed me the importance of the core values that Native Americans are taught when it comes to commitment to family, to community, and to a spiritual life. I also want to say that as a Latina, I share your appreciation of the importance of family and history.

Why am I telling you all this?

First, I want you to know that as the Federal official responsible for recruitment, I am committed to developing a workforce that looks like the people it serves. Second, I understand that I cannot successfully recruit from the Native American community without taking into account these issues of family and tradition.

So what do I need to do?

As I look at recruiting Native Americans, of course I need to look for people who can fill some key jobs in Washington, D.C.  But equally important is my responsibility to make sure Native Americans know that there are Federal jobs available in your home states, in your communities.

In fact, in our two million strong Federal workforce family, the vast majority of jobs – 85 percent – are located outside of Washington, D.C.

So you see, the positions are there. Every day on USAJOBS there are openings in communities and cities across the country in fields ranging from health care to accounting to engineering to IT to project managing. We just need to do a better job of matching up the talents of this community with the skills we need to better serve the American people.

I also know that my recruiting messages need to be different for those living on the reservations or in pueblos and those who live in urban communities.

Currently, Native Americans comprise 1.7 percent of the Federal workforce and 1.1 percent of the Senior Executive Service. Most Native American Federal employees work for Interior or Health and Human Services.

We must do better. One thing we must concentrate on is better developing our current employees and promoting them. I know your meeting has several sessions on that topic. I want to thank Veronica Villalobos, OPM's Director of Diversity, for working so hard on these issues and for participating in this week's conference. Veronica and her team are working on a new plan to strengthen the hiring of all diverse communities in Federal service.

We are also collaborating with agencies that have an underrepresentation of Native Americans to implement specific diversity and inclusion plans. We are using social media to share information about the Pathways programs with Native American students.

Today, OPM is offering a free training webinar for American Indian Special Emphasis Program Managers. Speakers will clearly outline these program managers' roles and responsibilities when it comes to ensuring that there is equal opportunity and equal treatment of Native American Federal workers. We worked with SAIGE to develop and offer this webinar during your conference. More than 200 people signed up to participate in just the first two hours it was advertised. We will also be conducting webinars at Tribal Colleges and Universities to give students and faculty the most up-to-date information about Federal jobs and practical tips about how to apply.

When I was in Denver several weeks ago, Susan was kind enough to bring together some met SAIGE members for me to talk with. They gave me some insights and suggestions about recruiting Native Americans.  Later this morning, I will have the honor to meet with Governor Eddie Paul Torres Sr. of the Isleta Pueblo. And tomorrow, I'll be at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI). Visits like these help give me ideas about recruiting strategies, about where best to target my efforts. I'll also be looking to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium to help guide me as I work to recruit more Native Americans to Federal service.

I am sure you know that you have a partner in President Obama. On Friday, the President and First Lady will be visiting Indian Country. They will visit the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannonball, North Dakota. The President will announce the next steps the Administration will take to support jobs, education and self-determination in Indian Country.

I had the honor last year of participating in the White House Tribal Nations Conference. The White House Council on Native American Affairs is planning this year's meeting. I hope to see many of you there.

I'm also here today to ask for your help. For me, and I suspect for you, public service is personal. As I said, we all know that government cannot compete with private industry when it comes to money or perks.

But where we can compete, and compete nobly, is in making a difference in people's lives.  We help Americans every day -- young people, old people, working families, mothers and fathers. We assist victims of floods, of wild fires, of tornadoes. We help budding entrepreneurs get small business loans. And we help a young student be the first in her family to go to college.

These impacts cannot be measured in dollars and cents. But they can be measured in how you feel about yourself and the contributions you make through the work you do. We all have stories to tell about why a career in public service fulfills us.

For me, attempting to comfort the families of plane crash victims when I was at the Transportation Department. Hearing from low wage workers about how a regulation helped them get a better deal at the workplace while I was at DOL. And now at OPM, I can help bring more people into the Federal service. It is personal.

When I leave this job, I may not walk away a rich woman. But I will be a satisfied woman. So I'm asking you to share your stories. Talk to friends, to neighbors, to members of your community. Talk to them about the mission that led you to public service, about why they might consider Federal service.

Finally, I want to wish you a successful conference. I want to thank you again for inviting me to speak to you today, and for your continued advice and counsel. Together, I know we will continue to build a diverse, inclusive and engaged Federal workforce for the 21st Century. Thank you.

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