Government leaders offered testimony today at a Senate hearing on steps being taken to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in the federal workforce.
Several witnesses delivered remarks to the Subcommittee on the Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia about the most serious challenges facing federal workers.
“Addressing these challenges during a time of declining agency budgets and an expected retirement wave requires the Federal government to make the proper investments in its workforce and ensure that it is taking the steps necessary to retain its talent,” Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) said in a statement.
The hearing addressed issues such as the hiring process, work-life balance, pay and benefits, retirement processing, non-foreign area locality pay, job training, whistleblower protections, security clearance reform, Senior Executive Service reform, and labor-management relations.
Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, was among those who offered praise for Akaka’s leadership and congratulations on his retirement.
In prepared testimony, Stier noted strides made in streamlining the federal hiring process to attract young and top talent, increasing the hiring of veterans and people with disabilities and passing legislation to facilitate career development, leadership and telework. He encouraged continued committee efforts in these areas, but also called for changes to civil service laws that have not kept pace with changes in the workplace.
He noted that in the August 2012 report, “Bracing for Change: Chief Human Capital Officers Rethink Business as Usual,” written by the Partnership in collaboration with Grant Thornton LLP, the consensus among the government’s Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) was that further progress in fixing the federal hiring system will require a re-examination of the underlying civil service law to address a cumbersome, confusing and outdated system.
“We ultimately believe that in order to achieve true hiring reform, the underlying civil service laws must change, and we recommend … that this be accomplished as part of comprehensive civil service reform,” according to Stier’s testimony.
He later added: “We need a federal government that will work better and smarter for the American people. To bring about this change, we need comprehensive civil service reform that will allow our federal government to recruit and retain top talent. The system should reward top performers and address poor performers. Ultimately, it should foster the development of good leaders and managers and ensure we are fostering a culture of innovation and performance in government.”
U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry (pictured above) also testified, noting the agency’s work on several efforts spearheaded by the committee, including increased accountability, closing skills gaps and improving leadership training. He also noted benefits from changes in the hiring process.
“The leadership of this subcommittee has been crucial in supporting the modernization of the federal hiring process,” Berry said in prepared testimony. “The time it takes to hire an applicant has decreased by almost 11 percent (10.66 percent) government-wide, going from an average of 122 days in 2009 to 109 days today. In addition to reducing time to hire, agencies have improved the integrity and validity of their data.”
Berry also noted progress in labor-management relations via agency-level forums. He said implementation plans for all 51 participating agencies have been certified and approved by the National Council and that 769 forums have been established, covering approximately 770,000 (approximately 65 percent) of the bargaining unit employees employed by the 51 agencies.
From OPM‘s surveys of agency forums, he said, agencies have reported the following early successes during implementation:
- Development of joint baseline assessments of labor-management relations and metrics; Improved labor-management communication;
- Reduction in the number of formal negotiations;
- Reduction in the time to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement; and
- Progress toward or resolution of issues related to matters such as agency performance management systems, work space issues and reorganizations and telework and other work-life programs.
“The federal government must invest in its people and ensure they have the proper training and development to effectively lead their agencies,” he said. “In a time when we have to justify every penny we spend, it is important to take the long view and realize that strategic investment in the workforce now is an investment in the future.”