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Diversity and inclusion provides organizations with at least 3 tangible benefits:
1. Serving our communities and being socially responsible
The communities we serve are diverse. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the workforce and the public we serve are growing in the number of women, people with disabilities, people of color and immigrants each year. Currently, 54 million men, women and children have disabilities, but just over one third of working-age Americans with disabilities are employed. This number is expected to increase by ten percent a year as our population ages and the number of residents older than 65 doubles by 2050. By that same year, 54 percent of the population will be "minorities" (any race other than non-Hispanic, single-race whites), and one third will be of Hispanic ancestry.
Diversity and inclusion increase an agency's capacity to serve and protect people who have different experiences or backgrounds and enhance its ability to be receptive to different traditions and ideas. Law enforcement officers present a good example of the critical need to have civil servants who look like the people and communities they serve. Indeed, we must maintain a workforce that is reflective of American society in order to provide high quality, responsive and equitable services for the public. Simply stated, it is the right thing for a democratic government to do.
2. Increasing innovation
Increased creativity is another byproduct of capitalizing on differences. Historically, some of the most creative periods in civilization have emerged when people of different backgrounds have contact and work together. The Renaissance grew in part from the meeting of peoples from the East and the West. America's energy and inventiveness have been attributed to the diversity of thought born from this nation of immigrants. Many scientific discoveries and inventions have been developed by and for people with disabilities. More recently, research has shown that effective diversity management coupled with inclusive work environments improves organizational performance and innovation. Employees from varied backgrounds bring different perspectives, ideas and solutions to the workplace that result in new products and services, challenge to the status quo, and new collaboration.
3. Getting a return on investment
Diversity and inclusion initiatives improve the quality of an agency's workforce and are the catalyst for a better return on investment in human capital. One of the biggest budget items in any agency is the amount it spends on human resources in the form of salaries, benefits, training, development and recruitment. In order to get a healthy return on investment in human capital and maximize competitive advantage, an agency must engage in recruitment and retention efforts that focus on acquiring the best and the brightest talent. We cannot secure the best and brightest talent unless we reach out broadly to all communities where such talent exists.
In addition, employees of all groups expect more from organizations - from nondiscriminatory, harassment-free workplaces to flexible schedules and benefits, work-life balance, and child care and family-friendly policies. Agencies are ensuring that they have the conditions in place that facilitate diversity and cultivate inclusion in all aspects of their operations. With these facilitating conditions, the return on investment is maximized, and employees are engaged and productive. The result is faster resolution to conflict which avoids costly litigation and settlements. These environments where all employees feel included and valued are yielding greater commitment and motivation, which translates into fewer resources spent on employee turnover, grievances and complaints.
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