Presidential Management Fellows are mostly happy

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Presidential Management Fellows are happy with their first days on the job but believe agency supervisors and program coordinators could provide better guidance and mentoring, according to a new study.

Overall job satisfaction among the class of 2011 fellows who participated in a study conducted by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service scored 72.7 points out of 100 points. The study, which included the views of 274 new fellows gathered from November 2011 to December 2011, found that PMFs like and respect their bosses, have realistic expectations of the program and are committed to public service. In particular, fellows who thought their first job assignment matched their skill level and took into account their developmental needs tended to rate the overall program more positively. The class of 2011 includes 420 fellows who work on various assignments in different agencies for two years.

PPS found some red flags, however, among those positive first reviews. Forty-three percent of respondents didn’t think their supervisors fully understood how the fellowship program works, while 40 percent said they didn’t receive enough early guidance from agency program coordinators. Fellows also gave the Office of Personnel Management low marks for orientation because they said the agency didn’t provide it early enough in the program.

“Although considerable time and effort goes into recruiting, hiring and training more than 400 fellows a year, the evidence suggests that many federal agencies and managers are not fulfilling some of the important needs of PMF participants during the first months of the two-year program,” the study said. “Unless remedied, these lapses could undermine the purpose of the PMF program and discourage participants from continuing careers in federal service.”

The Presidential Management Fellows track is the former Presidential Management Intern program and is part of OPM’s newly launched Pathways Programs to attract more students and recent graduates to government. OPM has beefed up its candidate assessment tools to ensure it picks top fellows and has increased training and orientation for the group. The government receives about 10,000 applications annually for the PMF program and accepts 600 to 1,000 candidates. In January 2012, OPM sent acceptance letters to hundreds of PMF applicants by mistake in an embarrassing snafu.

The 2011 fellows PPS tracked are a motivated bunch: 96 percent expected to be self-starters; 84 percent knew that administrative duties were part of the job; and 81 percent believed they needed to prove themselves before receiving more important tasks. The class of 2011 is 79 percent white and overwhelmingly female, with 65 percent women and 35 percent men. Ninety-two percent are under the age of 35 and 58 percent of the 2011 fellows have prior federal work experience.

In addition to more and better guidance from their supervisors and program coordinators, fellows also want mentors. Forty-three percent of respondents to the PPS survey said they were assigned a mentor, but 62 percent expected a guiding hand when they took the job. “The substantial gap between expectations and what takes place appears to have been on the radar of PMF program administrators and will be addressed by a new Pathways Program requirement that all fellows in the PMF program receive mentoring going forward,” the study said.

PPS encouraged agencies to ensure supervisors and program coordinators are knowledgeable about the PMF program, match fellows’ skills to their tasks, provide realistic snapshots of jobs so fellows know what to expect, and assign mentors during orientation.

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