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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.
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.
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