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OPM Director Offers New Hints at Civil Service Reform in Welcome Message

Video with deputy director suggests a desire for holistic approach to workforce issues.

New Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon told federal employees in a welcome message last week that the era of minor tweaks to the federal government’s human resources processes is over.

In a video posted on YouTube Saturday, Pon, flanked by Deputy Director Michael Rigas, offered his vision for the future of the federal workforce and his support for broad civil service reform, a goal he said President Trump shares.

Trump was "voted in as a mandate to change certain things across our government,” Pon said. “It’s nice to have a president that actually will go up to bat for civil service reform, for changing the way in which we quote-unquote have a way of recruiting people, rewarding people and managing people.”

Pon offered no new details as for how he hopes to advocate for the president’s management agenda, which was unveiled last month and includes reshaping the federal workforce, implementing performance-based pay, and shortening the hiring and firing process, among other proposals. But he said changes will be sweeping.

“Somehow, in the last several decades, we’ve been doing it piecemeal,” he said. “We’d like to do a lot of different changes, not at the piecemeal level, but as a whole. And we will come up with different types of personnel systems for different occupations . . . It’s not just about time to hire, it’s not just about how much they get paid, it’s the whole entire thing. It’s making sure that we have the whole entire system to help them do what they need to do.”

Rigas said changes would be made with an eye toward making federal employment more attractive to young people, as well as making it easier for people to shift between the private and public sectors.

“We want to make employment in the federal government more attractive and flexible, so that the next generation of folks who have new skills and talents to be able to offer can come in and provide service,” he said. “And if they want to go back to the private sector, they can do that, and maybe come back later in their career, or they could move in between or among federal agencies more easily.”

Rigas said input from feds will be central to OPM’s efforts.

“A lot of folks have been working with and have been dealing with those challenges for years, and we will seek out the solutions from the folks dealing with these, who have experiences understanding what the challenges are that they’re facing,” he said. “They’re the ones that are going to be implementing any changes and improvements that we make, so I think it’s very important that we listen to our employees and that they feel they have been heard.”

The full YouTube video is here: