OPM Offers a New Career Guide for Executives

A new framework from the Office of Personnel Management provides the government’s highest-level civil servants with a roadmap for continued learning and growth through each stage of their careers.

The framework lays out a professional development plan for Senior Executive Service members, an exclusive group of non-appointed employees tasked with leading the federal workforce through changes in political climate and job demands. With 7,500 to 8,000 SES individuals employed at any one time, developing these leaders as they rise through the ranks can positively impact agencies at every level, according to OPM.

“Through continual learning and development, senior executives may broaden their leadership and technical skills, experience, and perspectives, while promoting increased collaboration across the Federal Government,” OPM wrote in its report. The agency also partnered with the governmentwide Chief Learning Officers Council on the project.

The framework divides SES members’ careers into three general timeframes—Finding My Place, Making My Mark and Leaving My Legacy—and outlines a variety of leadership behaviors and goals to focus on during each period. OPM also recommended that agencies offer particular programs to SES members at different points in their career.

While agencies can fit most executive training to the position’s specific needs, the framework listed a handful of requirements for all SES members, including creating an Executive Development Plan, partaking in development activities, and getting feedback from employees. Members must also take advantage of rotational programs or other opportunities to get exposure to other agencies.

“[The framework] will move the needle forward in terms of developing highly successful leaders,” said Bill Valdez, president of the Senior Executives Association, a group representing SES members. He plans to help OPM implement the roadmap throughout the government.

The new OPM framework segues off a different initiative undertaken by SEA to groom young government employees for upper-level executive positions. Through its “leadership pipeline” effort, the association connects promising civil servants with mentors and provides them with leadership training to prepare them for more important roles down the line.

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