Executive Learning and Development

August 10, 2016

Executive Learning

Life-long learning is essential for individuals at all levels to remain relevant in today’s fast-paced environment.  Faced with constant challenges, changing technologies, and a fluid environment, executives especially must continue to broaden their perspectives and strive for continual professional executive development. Executives must specifically strengthen and reinforce their Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), skills, and knowledge to make informed decisions and devise new innovative solutions to the complex challenges they continuously encounter.

Federal agencies often perceive resource constraints as barriers to their ability to support professional development.By strategically prioritizing executive development, Federal agencies will maximize executive leadership effectiveness and potential, as well as significant organizational outcomes, while preparing the leadership corps for future challenges.

Executive Order-- Strengthening the Senior Executive Service


The President issued an Executive Order on December 15, 2015 to strengthen the Senior Executive Service.   The EO focuses on three key areas: 1) Hiring the Best Talent, 2) Strengthening SES Development, and 3) Improving SES Accountability, Recognition, and Rewards.  The Executive Order is available at:   https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/12/15/executive-order-strengthening-senior-executive-service.

  • The purpose of the forum is to provide Federal agencies support and guidance to effectively implement these requirements.  Additionally, several agencies will share their strategic approach to executive development including their talent management review and rotations programs.

    EO Forum Presentations & Handouts

OPM Welcome Slides
OMB Remarks on Talent Management/Development & the EO on SES
Overview of OPM Guidance on Executive Rotations
Missile Defense Agency- Talent and Succession Management
Nuclear Regulatory Commission- NRC Succession Planning Process
NRC Succession Planning Working Draft Handout

SES Situational Mentoring

Federal agencies are required by law (5 U.S.C. 3396) to establish programs for the continuing development of senior executives.  One tool that OPM has developed to help is the SES Situational Mentoring program. As an SES mentor please view these program Frequently Asked Questions and Roles and Responsibilities for detailed information about the program and your role. SES members interested in being mentored by a federal executive should email SESDevelopment@opm.gov. For more information about the SES Situational Mentoring program please view this VIDEO.

The Executive Development Plan (EDP) is a key tool in assisting executives in their continued development.  EDPs should outline the short-term and long-term developmental activities that will enhance an executive's performance.  These activities should meet organizational needs for Leadership, Managerial Improvement, and Results.  EDPs should be reviewed annually and revised as appropriate by an Executive Resources Board (or similar governing body designated by the agency to oversee executive development).

The 2008 SES Survey indicated that many executives felt their training and developmental needs were not being met by their agency.  Over one third of the executives surveyed indicated they had never taken advantage of the activities commonly used for developing executives (e.g. 360 degree assessments, details, mentoring, coaching, residential programs, etc.). 

The trend continues today. In fact, the 2016 SES Exit Survey results also indicate more executives desire coaching and other executive development activities, Again, SES members interested in being mentored by a federal executive should email SESDevelopment@opm.gov


Federal agencies are required by law (5 U.S.C. 3396) to establish programs for the continuing development of senior executives.  SES members are required to prepare, implement, and regularly update an EDP as specified by 5 CFR 412.401.

Federal Government Tools & Resources

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)


The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI)

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)

Other Public Sector organizations that encourage executive development:

Private Sector Tools and Resources

The Harvard Business Review: Features informational articles, discussions, and webinars for executives and managers alike. Subscribe to stay up to date on new and cutting edge trends in growing and developing senior leadership.

Federal Executive Boards (FEBs): FEBs are a forum for communication and collaboration among Federal agencies outside Washington, DC, and offer many training and development programs of interest to the executive and aspiring executive. The National network consists of 28 FEBs, located in areas of significant Federal populations, and serves as the cornerstone for strategic partnering in Government.

Private sector organizations that encourage executive development:

Helpful Tips

Remember that Executive Learning and Development can take place in a variety of forms. Here are a few ideas to get you started: