The Coalition for Effective Change (CEC) is an alliance of non-partisan associations representing current and former federal executives, managers, and professionals. The 30 organizations that constitute the CEC, with a combined workforce and membership of more than 600,000, came together in 1993 to provide a voice for reform in the federal government.

In July 2010, the CEC convened a special event forum to discuss current workforce challenges and opportunities for federal supervisors. The event focused on three key issues

  1. implementing flexible work arrangements
  2. training the next generation of federal leaders
  3. reforming the federal hiring process.

Implementing Flexible Work Arrangements

In a discussion of agency experience in flexible work arrangement implementation, organizations as diverse as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), and Senior Executives Association (SEA) commented about positive experiences they have had with flexible work arrangements.

For example, PTO, GSA, and NTEU have established successful telework programs available for and used by many employees. Both supervisors and employees are provided training about how the telework program should work and what to expect. Clear expectations for customer service are set up front.

Many agencies no longer need to provide office space and equipment for every employee, because participants receive laptops to work from home or nearby worksites and use shared space on the days they come into the office. Savings from reduced office space needs are then redirected to hire more telework employees.

Additionally, teleworkers participate in office meetings through conference calls. For town hall meetings, teleworkers may participate using virtual meeting software such as Adobe Comment. Typically, teleworkers are expected to work when offices are closed for emergencies, such as snow storms.

Recent Senate and House bills on telework provide clear examples of how good telework programs are supposed to work. The Senate measure (S. 707), sponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, passed in May 2010, and the House version (H.R. 1722) passed with a simple majority in July.

Training the Next Generation of Federal Leaders

Participants joined in a discussion led by the Center for Government Leadership at the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) about training the next generation of federal leaders. Speakers from the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Federal Executive Institute (FEI) described the importance of training supervisors to become leaders.

A big challenge for training leaders is the lack of an assured training budget for agencies. This means agencies must be creative in finding ways to provide necessary leadership training for agency employees as they become supervisors.

Leadership is a number one concern with respect to improving employee performance, and government managers lag behind their privatesector counterparts in this area. Too often, supervisory training is simply an information dump and lacks meaningful information about leadership. Government, like the private sector, needs leadership training on a continuum from supervisor, to manager, to executive. Most agree that leadership training should be provided both in the office and classroom setting, and online. Also, training should very much center on building relationships.

Interagency collaboration is an important part of leadership development, and agencies can invite leaders from other agencies to share ideas. Moreover, individuals need to take responsibility for their own training and development, and employees need to feel free to ask for coaching and leadership development support. To ensure accountability for training, agencies should work to align training goals with agency goals and mission.

Efforts to Reform the Federal Hiring Process

The Partnership for Public Service led a discussion about efforts to reform the federal hiring process, with participation from the Senate Committee on Oversight of Government Management and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

There is general recognition in and out of government that the federal hiring process is not what it needs to be. Currently, the process is too complicated and takes too long, and a May 2010 Presidential memorandum put top-level emphasis on reforms in this area. Gradually, agencies are streamlining job announcements by asking for rsums rather than a detailed list of knowledge, skills, and abilities. OPM is encouraging this approach, and agencies dont need to wait for its permission to proceed.

Senate and Congress members on government oversight panels have been supportive of these efforts, and agencies need to acknowledge the status of applications for applicants. Also, agencies need to measure the time it takes to hire and to measure manager satisfaction with the quality of applicants referred to them.

Applicants continue to find frustration with the practice of posting job vacancies when an agency knows it is planning to promote someone in the organization. Agencies can limit vacancy announcements to internal candidates when they seek to give someone a merit promotion. And public notice requirement in law seems at times to be interpreted too broadly to be practical.

One way for agencies to speed up the hiring process is to get their position descriptions and classification work done before the vacancy occurs so they are ready to post a vacancy immediately. Managers need to be actively involved in the hiring process to identify job requirements correctly, write accurate job announcements, and find quality applicants. Hiring should not be left solely to human resources.

Intern programs are an excellent way to bring good people into federal service. However, agencies have used the Federal Career Intern Program as a way around regular hiring procedures. It is claimed that nearly one-half of federal hires in some agencies in recent years have been under this program. Another path is for OPM to pull process action data from USAJOBS and send results to agency officials, as well as for OPM to post results on Facebook and Twitter. For OPM hiring reform information, visit http://www.facebook.com/HiringReform and http://twitter.com/HiringReform.

Future Action

Meaningful change to simplify and accelerate the hiring process appears to be underway. There is good reason to be optimistic about the future of the federal hiring process.