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Speeches & Remarks GovExec Magazine Leadership Conference

Remarks of OPM Director Katherine Archuleta

GovExec Magazine Leadership Conference

Washington, DC

May 12, 2014

As prepared for delivery

Thank you Tom Shoop. What a great conference. Look at all these Federal workers. I love it. Your theme, the Agency of the Future is right on. The President and leaders throughout government are working on this very issue.

This afternoon I want to talk about just a few of our ongoing initiatives.  We are working closely with the White House to streamline and enhance our hiring processes.  We are identifying improvements to the way we develop, promote and retain our executive workforce. And we are making progress on two of my highest priorities as Director of OPM: making sure that we are developing and engaging our employees, so that they feel their ideas and opinions are being listened to; and ensuring that the Federal workforce reflects the rich mosaic of the American people we serve.

I believe all of these initiatives that we are focusing on at OPM will improve the Federal Government’s ability to provide excellent service to this great country.

Frankly, you are the perfect audience to hear these messages. You are the present and the future of Federal leadership. It is up to you to hire, to mentor, to nurture, to train your employees. You will create the bench of leadership to take over when we all retire.  Succession planning is critical. I want to hear from you about what works and what doesn’t. What tools do you need to better do your jobs?

I know some of you are part of Young Government Leaders and your town hall is next. I’m glad you are here. It shows your interest and determination to develop and to succeed. As future executives, we are looking to you for the innovation and creativity to move the Federal service forward.

I have been traveling throughout the United States in the six months that I have been OPM Director. Based on the visits I’ve had with Federal employees from Atlanta to San Antonio to Phoenix I am confident that we are on the right path to continued success.

The messages I hear from Federal employees in the field, in my outreach calls, or in my brown bag lunches are the same: They want more opportunities. They want training. The want clear career paths. They want career development tools.  But you know what, they also tell me how much they love their jobs, how much they value their coworkers AND their bosses. That’s right.

When it comes to streamlining and improving our hiring processes, OPM is working on several initiatives. Given the difficult times we have all been through and the continuing smaller budget and fewer hiring opportunities, it is more critical than ever that agencies find the best talent, find the right person for every position.

OPM has an important role in helping agencies across government to efficiently, effectively and quickly hire the personnel they need to serve the American people. To make that happen, we are looking to develop enhancements to the Federal hiring process that provide departments with the flexibility they need. We are drilling down with agencies to find the knots in their hiring processes and to untie them. We are reviewing OPM policies to help agencies get the talent they need.

As I have been meeting with Cabinet secretaries and agency leaders, I’ve provided them with individualized tool kits that get at the heart of their human resource problems, opportunities and needs. I know that hiring is not a one-size-fits-all process.

We have 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.

We also are continuing to work on making job announcements clearer, more understandable and more compelling to the talent we are trying to attract. And we are improving the way we assess candidates. We must make sure we select the right person for the right job. Every position is critical to fulfilling our service mission. And we want to give you the tools you need to make your critical candidate assessment.

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 of mine as one of the leaders of the People and Culture pillar of that agenda.

We must make sure that agencies across the government are assembling strong, world-class management teams, beginning with the SES. We are working on an SES onboarding initiative to develop a cross-agency onboarding program. We want to provide agencies with a consistent and improved SES onboarding model. What’s that cliché? You never get a second chance to make a first impression?

There’s truth in that and we have to help agencies ensure that new executives get the information and the support they need to quickly and effectively get going in their assignment.

As you know, it’s not enough to bring aboard and develop top talent, we must make sure that Federal employees are fully engaged in the workplace. We must have a workplace culture that promotes employee engagement, one that pays attention to employee morale.  When I talk with Federal employees, I find they have so many great ideas about how to make government work better, how to innovate. And sometimes, their ideas don’t neatly fit into the description of their current role.

So at OPM we have developed something we call GovConnect. GovConnect is an initiative that will foster a one-government culture of collaboration, innovation and knowledge-sharing. It looks at work in a new, exciting way. The idea is to deploy a more mobile, agile and innovative workforce by helping agencies test out some strategies that will let employees apply their skills and expertise to a new project, something that is not in their current comfort zone. Some of the projects will be initiated by managers, others by employees and professional networks.

We’re already started piloting this idea. At HUD, for example, employees used a program called Innovation Time. They were able to break away from their current responsibilities and spend up to four hours a week working on projects they were passionate about.  One HUD team in the field used Innovation Time to create an App that helps people in several metropolitan areas find affordable housing.

At OPM we’re working on another initiative I’m really excited about called GovU. GovU is modeled after HRU, our program that enables agencies to share training and development resources across the government. So we’re thinking that what works for human resources training can also work for other common training needs across government. That includes onboarding, mandatory training and skills training for occupations that span the entire Federal government.

As leaders, we all face challenges as we work to improve morale in the workplace.

Most mornings I make phone calls to OPM employees to learn first-hand what they like about their jobs - that’s the easy question. I also ask them what they don’t like.  I ask them what makes them out of bed in the morning and come to work. I ask them what we can do to help them do their jobs better.

Employees across government are looking to their leaders, all of you in this room and your colleagues across government to support their efforts and to engage with them to move forward.

One thing I’ve learned from my conversations with employees both here and around the country is that the more we listen, the more we engage in this kind of dialog with our employees, the more we will be armed with the information we need to effect positive changes in the workplace.

Just such an opportunity is happening across the Federal government right now.   The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey has been in the field for two weeks. 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 employees what we know to be true: that we take their comments seriously, 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 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.

I want to leave you today with some thoughts about how we are working to deliver on a goal I work on every day: how to build a 21st Century workforce that reflects all segments of our society.

When I talk about diversity, I always also talk about inclusion. Diversity is about more than hiring, promoting and retaining more women, more people of color, more people with disabilities. It’s about making sure that people from every corner of our society are also included in the decisions we make and the goals we pursue. We need diversity of thought, diversity of experience, diversity of wisdom, if we are going to be successful in serving the American people.

We are approaching this effort on several fronts. We are working to make sure that and our YouTube channel is accessible, user friendly, well-known and branded in more communities, including those that have been historically underrepresented.  We will implement a social media strategy to include Federal employees from every background, do outreach with minority serving institutions, Hispanic serving institutions and other colleges and universities.

We will pilot these efforts with up to six agencies that are actively hiring.

I also have asked my team to form a work group to develop a comprehensive Recruitment and Retention Plan. The plan will be based on data-driven decisions and strategies.  We need to create conditions that are optimal for bringing in the best talent through a strategic approach to recruitment and hiring.  And just as important, we need to focus on how best to continue to develop and retain people once we get them in the door.

Finally, I want to thank you for your efforts on behalf of the American people each and every day. I will make sure 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. That’s because you are the leaders of the largest employer in the United States.

Together, we must continue to make sure that the Federal service is THE model workforce for the 21st Century. Together I know that we can make that happen.

Thank you.

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