Senior Execs to Begin Obama's Rotation Program This Year
OPM issues guidance detailing what qualifies as a rotation.
Many top civil servants at federal agencies will start rotating to other functions, components or agencies starting in October, per new guidance just released by the Obama administration.
The guidance, issued by the Office of Personnel Management, spells out the requirements for agencies participating in the Senior Executive Service rotational program Obama established by executive order in 2015. All federal agencies with more than 20 SES employees will spend the next few months planning their initiatives to move at least 15 percent of their top managers to jobs outside their normal duties for at least 120 consecutive days. Agencies must submit two-year plans to OPM by the end of May.
OPM defined a rotation as “a development process, involving movement to another position or an assignment that broadens the executive’s knowledge, skill and experience in order to improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration.” The guidance further said the assignment must “provide experience outside the executive’s current role.”
Obama issued the order in December to strengthen SES development and improve SES accountability. OPM said its guidance was written to allow for flexibility within each agency “to customize the program that is most appropriate for their missions and the executive’s developmental needs.”
Not all agencies will hit the 15 percent threshold, OPM said. The agency expected some to exceed that rate and others to fall short, but for the governmentwide figure to be 15 percent.
Falling within OPM’s definition of a rotation are an executive reassignment or transfer, as well as a “development assignment” occurring internally at the agency, in a different area or subcomponent, at another agency altogether or even, when permissible by law, in the private sector. It can also include “full-time, extended service” on a multi-agency or joint task force or a sabbatical. The Intergovernmental Personnel Act also allows for stints at state, local or tribal governments, as well as at colleges and universities.
All agencies participating must submit their two-year plans to OPM, which will include a statement of objectives and how the rotation program will tie in talent management and succession planning. It will also detail implementation milestones, how the agency will announce opportunities to SES employees, how it will go about filling positions and plans to reintegrate those returning to their normal jobs. Agencies will also spell out what metrics they will use to evaluate the success of their employees’ rotations.
Agencies in the program’s first phase -- including the departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, Veterans Affairs and Defense, as well as the Office of Personnel Management, General Services Administration and Social Security Administration -- must begin rotating SESers by Oct. 1. By the end of September 2017, those agencies will report back to OPM with details on their programs. The human resources agency will in turn issue new guidelines based on the lessons learned from the first phase.
By fiscal 2018, 24 departments and agencies will be rotating their SES workforces.
OPM promoted the program, saying it will help executives “broaden their perspectives and sharpen their skills. On-the-job experiences like rotations contribute to 70 percent of SES employees’ learning and boosts job satisfaction, the agency said. OPM encouraged agencies to create rotation programs that allow executives to swap roles, thereby alleviating any concerns of reducing personnel.
Carol Bonosaro, president emeritus of the Senior Executives Association, said she had “mixed feelings” on the guidance. Agencies could treat their new obligations as a box to check rather than actually considering their business needs, she worried.
“It’s really important to do this well so that executives are comfortable with it,” Bonosaro said. She added OPM should have provided clearer directions for exactly how one agency would send their executives to another.
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