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    Our Director Director's Blog

    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.

     Photo of a lady buying vegetables from a veteran at a local 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. 

    Picture of several Federal Employees interviewing each other during a workshop.


    In 2010, the President laid down a challenge to his Administration: hire 100,000 people with disabilities into the Federal workforce within five years. This was one of the many ways the President has demonstrated his strong commitment to broadening career opportunities for people with disabilities, and I’m happy to report we are making steady progress toward meeting that important goal.

    With one year of data still to analyze, we are on track. From 2011 to 2014, the Federal government hired nearly 72,000 full-time permanent employees with disabilities. When we add in part-time permanent employees, the number is nearly 80,500. And, if we include temporary employees, the total is more than 115,000.

    OPM’s latest report on the employment of people with disabilities shows that at the end of fiscal year 2014, there were more people with disabilities working in the Federal government – by percentage share and by real numbers – than at any time since we started record-keeping 34 years ago. In the past year alone, the share of people with disabilities in the Federal workforce went from 12.8 percent to 13.6 percent. Of the new hires of people with disabilities, 16.4 percent were at the GS 14 and 15 levels.

    I’m proud of the work we have done with agencies across government to help make this happen. We are also looking to improve on these totals. We will share the data from fiscal year 2015 when it’s ready.

    Header:  OPM.GOV  Graphic with a green and blue background. Graphic is located at the lowest right corner of the image with  4 avatars, 3 blue ones connected to one big white avatar by a timeline. Headline: The President's Challenge, Hire 100,000 People with Disabilities in 5 years. Subhead: From 2011 to 2014, (followed by 3 separate boxes containing the following) 71,967, full-time permanent employees with disabilities. 80,469, full-time and part-time permanent employees with disabilities. 115,221m all permanent and temporary employees with disabilities. Subhead: Transforming Leadership, 16.4% of new hires of people with disabilities were GS-14s and GS-15s. Footer: OPM.GOV  

    This important story is about more than numbers. By demonstrating our commitment to providing equal employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities, we are also tapping into a talent pool that enriches the 2-million strong Federal workforce.

    In my view, we need people with disabilities in every agency and at every level of Federal service if the government is going to provide the excellent service that the American people expect and deserve. We cannot fulfill our mission without such diversity.

    As encouraging as the numbers are, our work is not done. We need to make sure that after we hire these accomplished and motivated employees, they have opportunities for advancement. We need to do more to provide them with training and mentoring. We need to focus on retaining them in Federal service.

    We’re holding leaders accountable. We’re working with agencies and affinity groups to build mentoring programs, because we know how important great mentors are to fostering confidence and success. And, we are committed to working with agencies in an effort to provide people with disabilities the reasonable accommodations they need to do their jobs.

    I want to thank the team at OPM and all those throughout the Federal service who have been working diligently to fulfill the President’s vision of a workforce that is a model employer for people with disabilities. We will continue to make this effort a priority as we sustain and improve on these results.


    Yesterday, we began mailing notification letters to the individuals whose personal information was stolen in a malicious cyber intrusion carried out against the Federal Government. Impacted individuals will be notified by OPM via U.S. Postal Service mail. Email will not be used.      

    The letters being mailed to those affected by this incident will describe the comprehensive suite of identity theft protection and credit monitoring services that will be provided for at least three years, at no cost, to impacted individuals and to their dependent minor children. An impacted individual is someone whose personal information, including Social Security Number, was stolen.

    As we have noted before, those impacted by this breach are already automatically covered by identity theft insurance and identity restoration services. However, the Federal Government is providing additional services that impacted individuals are encouraged to enroll in, free of charge.

    The notices will contain a personalized identification number (PIN) number which is necessary to enroll in the covered services. Please note that neither OPM, nor anyone acting on OPM’s behalf, will contact you to confirm any personal information. If you are contacted by anyone asking for your personal information in relation to compromised data or credit monitoring services, do not provide it.

    As you know, a very large number of people were impacted by this breach, and the nature of the information involved has national security implications as well. OPM and the Department of Defense have continued to analyze the impacted data to verify its quality and completeness, and in this process, we determined that approximately 5.6 million of the impacted individuals had their fingerprints stolen. If an individual’s fingerprints were taken, this will be noted in their letter. 

    While Federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited, an interagency working group with expertise in this area will review the potential ways adversaries could misuse fingerprint data now, and in the future. This group will also seek to develop potential ways to prevent such misuse. If in the future, new means are developed to misuse the fingerprint data, the government will provide additional information to individuals whose fingerprints may have been stolen in this breach.

    All of these factors make it important that we take the time necessary to make sure the notification process is carried out carefully. We’re committed to getting this right. What this means is that, while the notifications are beginning this week, it could take considerable time to deliver them all. 

    I understand that many of you are frustrated and concerned, and would like to receive this information soon. My personal data was also stolen in this breach, and I am eager to get my notification letter as soon as possible so that I can sign up for these services. However, given the sensitive nature of the database that was breached – and the sheer volume of people affected – we are all going to have to be patient throughout this notification process.

    In the meantime, please check OPM’s online cybersecurity resource center at www.opm.gov/cybersecurity for updates and additional information. This website has valuable suggestions about how to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime, has answers to many frequently asked questions, and allows you to sign up for automatic updates. We are continually refreshing the site and will continue to do so as this process unfolds.

    OPM and our partners across government are working hard to protect the safety and security of the information of Federal employees, contractors and others who entrust their information to us.

    Together with our interagency partners, OPM is committed to delivering high quality identity protection services to the Federal community. We will continue to update you as this process continues. Thank you for your patience, your service to the American people, and your continuing support.

    Graphic along with blue background. Filling most the page is the OPM LOGO. Headline: GET PROTECTE. STAY INFORMED. Subhead: CYBERSECURITY RESOURCE CENTER.

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