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June 5, 2014
As prepared for delivery
Thank you Tin Cao for that introduction, and for your leadership of the Asian American Government Executives Network.
A room full of Federal leaders. How great. I am so happy to be here today.
As I look around this room the first thing I want to do is say thank you for the hard work you do every day and for your dedication to serving the American people. That is something I can’t say enough.
I want to thank AAGEN for inviting me to speak today. This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to address some of the membership. Your efforts for the past 20 years to advocate for and mentor and mentor and mentor and mentor – I want to underscore that - Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the Federal workforce are paying off.
Your organization started with six people. Now, nearly 300 present and future leaders of the Federal Government have taken the time today to come to this conference. You have shared experiences and learned what some of the best next steps are to continue to develop in your careers. You take your service seriously and I applaud you for that. You are purpose driven.
I love the theme of today’s meeting: Training for Excellence.
The President has charged me with making sure that we at OPM provide you with the tools you need to grow professionally, and also to ensure you have what you need to create a deep leadership bench for the Federal workforce of the future.
I want to talk to you today about my priority of making the Federal workforce reflect the incredible talents, the energy, the experiences of people from every community in this country, and about what I see as the mission of public service. I also want to tell you a little bit about some of the initiatives we are working on when it comes to hiring, developing and retaining our executive workforce.
I have been traveling throughout the United States in the seven months that I have had the honor to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management. I’ve been talking to students and professors at colleges and universities, particularly those with the most diverse student bodies. I’ve met with community leaders. I’ve sat down with Federal workers.
Last month I met with Asian American and Pacific Islanders in San Francisco and in Denver. I asked them for advice about how I can increase the diversity of the Federal workforce, particularly when it comes to the AAPI community.
Right now, Asian American and Pacific Islanders make up about 6 percent of the Federal workforce, but only 3.3 percent of our Senior Executive Service. We need to do better. And you’re helping us do that.
Let me be clear. My insistence that the Federal workforce look like the America we serve is not about numbers. It is about the American people benefitting from the talent, from the wisdom, from the experience and the insights of people from every community in this country, from all across this great land. We need that diversity at every level of the Federal workforce. We need that diversity at every decision table.
I also had the honor last month of speaking at AAGEN’s SES Development Program graduation. OPM partnered with AAGEN, the White House Initiative on AAPI and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to help design that effort. What I think makes your program so special is the volunteer mentors who have stepped up to advise, encourage and counsel the leadership participants.
You have mastered not only this art, but the science of how to get it done. So far, five graduates of that program have been selected for the Senior Executive Service. I know there are more to come.
For me, and I suspect for you, public service is personal. 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 are helping Americans every day -- young people, old people, working families, mothers and fathers. We are helping victims of floods, of wild fires, of tornadoes. We are helping the budding entrepreneur get a small business loan. We are helping the young student be the first in her family to go to college.
These are not impacts that can be measured in dollars and cents. But they can be measured in how you feel about yourself and the contributions you are making 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 in the workplace while I was at DOL. And now at OPM, I can help bring more people into Federal service. It is personal. I care about what happens in my country, in my community, in my neighborhood and certainly with my family, just as you do.
Not only are we the deliverers of these services. We are the recipients. Let’s not forget that. Your communities, your neighbors and indeed your family rely on the work that you do and your callings.
As part of our mission at OPM, we are working on several initiatives to make sure that you have the tools to do your work efficiently, effectively and quickly, to hire the personnel you need to serve the American people.
I know that hiring is not a one-size-fits-all process. We are looking to enhance the Federal hiring process to make sure executives and managers have flexibility. We are working with agencies to identify the knots in their hiring processes and help untie them. We are reviewing OPM policies and seeing where they can be streamlined.
We have already had steady success since the President made improving our hiring processes a priority. Federal agencies have been able to decrease the time it takes to bring talented people on board. In 2009, it took an average of 122 days - more than four months – to hire a new Federal employee. As of today, we shaved more than a month off that wait. And many agencies report it takes them an average of fewer than 80 days to hire a new employee. And, we are working hard to reduce it even further!
We also are continuing to work on making job announcements clearer, more understandable and more compelling. And we’re going to improve the way we assess candidates. We must make sure we select the right person for the right job.
I know many of you in this room are members of the SES or managers aspiring to become SES members. The strengthening and development of our Senior Executive Service is a major goal of the President’s Second Term Management Agenda, and a high priority for me.. We must make sure that agencies across the government are assembling strong, world-class management teams, beginning with the SES. So we are working on an initiative to develop a cross-agency SES onboarding program. We want to provide agencies with a consistent and improved SES onboarding model.
One thing I’ve learned from my conversations with employees both here and around the country is that we need to listen more, that we need to engage more in dialog with our employees, the more we will be armed with the information we need to make positive changes in the workplace.
Just such an opportunity is happening across the Federal government right now. The deadline for filling out the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey is just one week away, June 13th. This survey is our window into better understanding how Federal employees feel about their jobs and what we need to do to improve morale and productivity across government. The success of this survey depends on how many employees participate. And I believe that depends on all of us convincing Federal workers what we know to be true: that we take their comments seriously, that I take their comments seriously as Director of OPM, that we use their feedback to effect change, and that their opinions matter.
Unlike years past when the survey gave us a general view of employee opinions, the EVS can now pinpoint areas of strength and challenges through more than 12,000 component-level reports. You can find out exactly what your employees are thinking.
So I urge all of you to do all you can to see that we get the largest response ever to this voluntary and confidential survey. The EVS is a way for us to hear from our employees and to act on their feedback with genuine care and leadership.
Finally, I would like to end where I began. I want to thank you again for your efforts on behalf of the American people each and every day. I will make sure, I promise you, that the American people know who you are. I will be shouting you out. I will be giving you a high five. I will be singing your praises everywhere I go. I will tweet about you, Instagram your photos, link you in and fill Facebook with images of government employees.
I do this because I know that together we will continue to make sure that the Federal service is THE model workforce for the 21st Century. And I want as many people as possible to know that we are doing it together! Thank you!