Personnel leader sets deadlines for hiring reform

The Office of Personnel Management is set to help agencies meet the Obama administration's goals for hiring reform and work-life balance programs.

In a June 18 letter to agency heads, OPM Director John Berry set a July 1 deadline for assigning teams to work on the hiring reform efforts laid out in a June 11 memorandum from Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag. Those teams will be responsible for mapping their hiring process, and writing plain-language job descriptions for their 10 most prevalent positions by Sept. 30. Final reports are due on Dec. 15.

Berry also said OPM will pair up agencies with similar compositions and missions so they can learn from each other's best practices, and will hold training academies so agency officials can learn more about the mapping process.

To assist these agency-by-agency hiring efforts, Berry said USAJobs.gov boasts a new "proactive notification" feature that will make it easier for officials to let applicants know their status. And he wrote that he has dedicated part of OPM's budget to creating centralized hiring pools of people who want to be considered for multiple positions within the federal government.

Berry also reinforced the importance of the reports on work-life balance initiatives requested in the June 11 memo from Orszag. "Studies show that, on average, happy and healthy employees are more productive and engaged in their work," Berry wrote. "There is evidence that an engaged workforce leads to improved performance results."

In keeping with that philosophy, Berry told OPM employees that work is under way on an array of programs aimed at improving the quality of life within their own agency.

A review of the facilities, ranging from the condition of workspaces to the layouts of offices at the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building, where OPM has its headquarters, began on June 17, said Tina McGuire, deputy associate director of OPM's Center for Contracting, Facilities and Administrative Services. She said that within the next week, her team would have a list of proposals for facilities improvements, using money OPM is receiving from the General Services Administration, and would ask OPM employees for feedback on which projects should be priorities. Berry said separately that he is exploring getting funds for significant upgrades of OPM's restrooms and telecommunications systems, which he described as "the old can-and-string model."

Berry added that he met last week with representatives from the Interior Department, GSA and the Federal Reserve. Those agencies, he said, were committed to working together to create a suite of model work-life balance programs. Berry first discussed such a plan in May.

The OPM director said he was looking for employees to step forward and help decentralize the agency's rewards and recognitions system, in an effort to make sure awards go to truly outstanding employees, not simply those who catch the attention of the director or other senior staff.

Finally, Berry said he was considering reorganizing offices within OPM to better align its structure to its mission. He said he would update staff on a proposal for reorganization during a town hall meeting in September or October, but emphasized "this is no attempt to reduce our workforce, this is no attempt to streamline."

Rather, Berry said, "When the president nominated me for this job, I said, 'Let me see the [organizational] chart,' and I sat down with it. Ten minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes [later], I still couldn't tell you [what the agency was focusing on]."

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