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Since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has been committed to promoting a workplace culture for the 21st century that will support the Federal Government’s ability to attract, empower, and retain a talented and productive workforce by expanding the use of workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. Among several requirements, the President directed OPM to educate agencies on the various workplace flexibilities and work-life resources available.
To support the President’s initiative, we are pleased to announce a new 90-minute online course called “Introduction to Leave, Work-Life, and Workplace Flexibilities” that is available at no cost through OPM’s HR University. Its goal is to provide Federal employees and managers with a comprehensive overview of flexible workplace benefits and how to access them.
This new course is being introduced during National Women’s History Month (WHM). The theme of this year’s WHM is honoring women in public service and government. OPM works with agencies across government to help recruit, develop, and retain the talent they need - including women - to deliver on our missions for the American people.
Today, OPM and IMPACT, the agency’s women’s employee resource group, sponsored a program entitled “Federal Women Lead.” During this panel discussion, senior Federal women leaders shared their career journeys and talked about the importance work-life flexibilities have played in their success.
OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert, who spent 29 years as a consultant and partner in the private sector before joining Federal service, recalled how she was one of the first consultants at that firm to work part time.
“Workplace flexibilities have been important to me in my career. My husband and I had demanding jobs when our children were born. I was a consultant at a private global management company, a job which involved long hours and considerable travel. Back then, working part time and other flexibilities to help balance work and family life were not in place in many workplaces, including mine. But I asked to shift to a part-time schedule, and the leadership in my office was willing to give it a try. It turned out to be good for me, for my firm, and our clients – and working part-time is now an option for others,” Cobert said.
Workplace flexibilities provide a benefit to both Federal employees and our customers – the American people. OPM’s course helps to promote a culture in which employees and managers are able to more effectively use the various workplace flexibilities and work-life programs available. Allowing employees to use these flexibilities improve agency productivity, employee engagement and provides better service for our customers.
There’s no better time for Federal employees to focus on healthy eating goals than during National Nutrition Month. The Federal Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides nutrition advice and tips on how Americans can eat healthy while still enjoying food that meets their personal, cultural, and traditional preferences and that fit within their budget. Choosing nutritious foods can help reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and maintain a healthy body weight.
This month, you may see an increased focus on nutrition. Throughout the year workplaces across the Federal government encourage employees to make informed decisions about their food choices. To support Federal agencies in developing and maintaining effective nutrition programs, OPM hosted a webinar training that highlighted agency best practices. We also conducted a government-wide assessment of their workplace health and wellness programs called WellCheck, which helps agencies determine the effectiveness of their health and wellness programs.
OPM also supports and maintains the Federal Work-Life Community of Practice (CoP) which helps work-life coordinators learn from other Federal agencies, collaborate with colleagues across government, and take advantage of cost-saving opportunities.
Some examples of evidence-based strategies that agencies are implementing to support healthy eating include:
The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) "Cafe Wellness Tours," which gives employees the opportunity to identify better choices, sample healthy options, ask questions, and learn how to customize meals to meet their dietary needs. NIH also offers a variety of local options including: "Meatless Monday" specials; calorie labeling on digital menu boards, and identifying healthier menu choices with symbols. NIH's environmental supports for nutrition are one piece of their robust and comprehensive workplace health and wellness program.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) issues weekly nutrition tips through an opt-in employee listserv. It also provides lunch-time seminars on nutrition topics, such as understanding food labels. DOT continues to explore ways to strengthen its nutrition program and health awareness outreach by strategically partnering with its Employee Assistance Program, health clinic, fitness center, and external health services providers.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hosts a series of in-person and virtual webinars that address the benefits of healthy eating. FEMA also partners with vendors to ensure healthful food and beverage options are available in snack machines. FEMA also encourages employees to make healthier choices available during meetings or team gatherings when food is served.
These efforts, and many others across the Federal government, support the Presidential Memorandum on Enhancing Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Programs, the National Prevention Strategy, and the Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations.
For information about how to choose a healthy eating pattern and enjoyable diet, review the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Most importantly, we care about the health of Federal employees. Living a healthy lifestyle can help you be your best at home, work, and in your community. We hope you will take a few minutes to examine your eating habits this month and rejuvenate your health goals -- one bite at a time.
Building deeper ties with our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBU) and bolstering employee training were the key themes of events that the Office of Personnel Management’s Blacks In Government (BIG) chapter and the agency’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) sponsored during African American History Month.
BIG and ODI partnered to host a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) forum that brought together representatives from Claflin University, Bowie State University, Hampton University, Howard University, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T, University of the District of Columbia, the Association of Public & Land Grant University, and Prince George’s Community College. They were joined by representatives of Federal agencies and the business community.
The purpose of the HBCU forum was to have a robust discussion and to establish and sustain relationships with colleges and universities, Federal agencies, and other stakeholders in order to create a pipeline of talented students and alumni that will result in:
OPM’s Acting Director Beth Cobert said at the forum that “the contributions that graduates from historically black colleges make to the Federal workforce across the country are extremely important. OPM is proud of the relationships we have built with many of you in this room.” She also pointed out that HBCU’s are some of the biggest producers of black undergraduate degrees in STEM fields, an area where many Federal agencies are in need of talented and motivated employees.
Director Cobert also challenged the attendees to take the opportunity to discuss and collaborate on ways OPM could work with the universities to enhance diversity and inclusion within the Federal and private sector.
Also during African American History Month, representatives from Howard University provided executive leadership training to OPM BIG members and other agency employees.
The “Leadership in Action Seminar” covered leadership and executive communications, principles in group and cross cultural communications, decision-making, and team building. The training was conducted by Dr. Kim Wells, Executive Director of Executive Education at Howard University’s School of Business and Retired Air Force General Frank Anderson.
The interactive training discussed how easy it is to fall into making hiring and promotion decisions based on conscious or unconscious biases that can impact an organization or company having a diverse and inclusive employment culture.
The events BIG organized during this year’s African American History Month are just the beginning. We will continue to promote collaboration and partnerships with representatives from our nation’s HBCUs, all with the goal of continuing to create a diverse and inclusive environment in the Federal workplace.
At the Office of Personnel Management, every day we work to support the President’s Management Agenda’s goal to recruit, hire, and retain a world-class workforce. We develop human resources policies for everything from benefits to employee engagement to performance management to diversity and inclusion. And we believe strongly that the policy decisions we make must be grounded in research.
Connecting research to policy is so important to us that it’s a goal in OPM’s Strategic Plan. This week, OPM partnered with American University to host its first research summit. We brought together researchers and policy experts from 20 Federal agencies, 19 colleges and universities, and partners from industry and the non-profit sector. We focused on six specific human capital policy areas: work/life issues; benefits; performance management; diversity and inclusion; leadership; and employee engagement.
Our goal was to determine the current state of research in each of these areas.
At this summit, we wanted to determine where there are gaps in the research we need to make the best informed decisions about human resources policies for Federal employees. We looked at the challenges to closing those research gaps and what research we need to best inform our policy decisions over the next several years.
This summit will lead to enhanced collaborations. OPM already works with researchers around the country as they look at human resources issues in depth. We provide researchers will access to selected OPM data. For example, by accessing the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data, which contains insights on employee engagement, productivity, innovation, and other employee concerns, researchers have written at least 60 academic papers in recent years.
We must plan and make policy for the Federal workforce of the future. The way we all work is constantly changing. Employees are teleworking more. Workspaces are becoming more open and collaborative. We are asking employees to be more innovative and to think out of the box.
By making sure that our human resources policies are informed by the most rigorous and up-to-date research, OPM can better design more effective human resources policies and help the Federal Government move to the forefront as an employer of choice.
The ultimate goal of this summit and of the work of OPM’s Office of Planning and Policy Analysis is to use these collaborations to help us establish a research agenda for Federal human resources management that will shape human capital policy for years to come.
One of our most important responsibilities at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is to help departments and agencies hire the talented employees they need to fulfill their missions. As the world confronts the Zika virus, OPM is enabling Federal officials to more quickly and efficiently bring on the talented individuals they need to aid in the response.
Time is critical, and a fast-moving illness like Zika requires an equally fast response. So OPM is contributing to the response by authorizing emergency hiring flexibility for positions crucial to dealing with this crisis.
Several key Federal agencies – the Departments of State (State), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) - need to quickly hire specialists who can aid in this coordinated effort. To help agency leaders accomplish that, OPM has offered them what we call Direct-Hire Authority. This is a streamlined and expedited hiring process that will allow these agencies to quickly bring on the people they need to immediately address the Zika crisis.
Federal health experts are working to improve mosquito control efforts and refine Zika testing methods. They are also providing support and guidance to health care providers and to the public about travel plans and precautions they can take to guard against the virus. Direct-Hire Authority will allow the agencies responding to move more quickly.
Among the dozens of Federal positions possibly needed are medical officers and nurses at State, microbiologists and epidemiologists at HHS, and emergency management and IT specialists at USAID. To view job postings in these fields, among others needed, please visit USAJOBS.gov.
The White House is taking an all-of-government approach to this crisis and to protecting the American people from Zika. The urgency of this effort was underscored by the President in his recent letter to Congress in which he asked for approximately $1.9 billion in emergency funding to respond to the Zika virus both domestically and internationally.
“My foremost priority is to protect the health and safety of Americans,” the President said in his letter to Congress. “This request supports the necessary steps to fortify our domestic health system, detect and respond to any potential Zika outbreaks at home, and to limit the spread in other countries.”
The emergency funds the President is seeking also would provide emergency assistance to states and the U.S. territories to combat the virus, including federal Medicaid funding in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories for health services for pregnant women at risk of infection or diagnosed with Zika virus, and for children with microcephaly; support an acceleration of research and development on vaccines, therapies, and improved diagnostics, as well as on advanced approaches to mosquito control. The additional staff that OPM’s Direct-Hire Authority will allow agencies to hire will be critical in these efforts.
Like all Americans, Federal employees who plan to travel for business or personal reasons in the upcoming weeks and months may be understandably concerned. My advice is to visit the State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Travelers' Health websites for the most updated travel information. This CDC website also details preventive measures you can take to protect yourself against Zika if you do plan to travel to one of the affected areas. The locations with ongoing Zika virus transmission are likely to change over time, so be sure to check back to these websites before each trip you are planning to take.
When facing emerging health threats such as this, the world looks to the United States as a leader in providing the tools, resources, and individuals needed to respond. And we know that Americans are looking to our talented public health officials and scientists to be at the forefront of the efforts to combat this illness. OPM will continue to support our colleagues across the Federal Government in their efforts to hire the talented individuals needed to protect and defend Americans and our partners across the globe from the Zika virus.
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