OPM pitches public service

OPM director says agencies must accommodate a new generation of nontraditional federal employees

The federal workforce is changing, creating a greater need to attract and cultivate high-performing employees, according to the latest strategic plan developed by the Office of Personnel Management. OPM officials say federal agencies must change to compete with the private sector for employees who seek nontraditional careers.

At a recent House Government Reform Committee subcommittee meeting, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked OPM Director Linda Springer what federal agencies should do to attract new employees. “Give us your best pitch,” he said to Springer.

The federal government has jobs in almost every field, Springer said. “You can do anything you want,” she said, and that includes pursuing cancer research or working outdoors in national parks. She added that federal employees have the satisfaction of serving their country.

But what about the small pay raises — 2.2 percent in fiscal 2007 — Cummings asked.

If Congress considers that too little, Springer said, Congress can fix it. Public-sector employee salaries are competitive with those in the private sector, she said, and federal government health benefits are generous.

“Want a job?” she asked Cummings.

One change that would help attract new employees is more flexible work arrangements, said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the committee’s chairman, who said he thinks that more federal employees should have opportunities to telework.

“When are we going to get with the program?” Davis asked Springer.

Springer said the problem lies with agency managers who fear that they will lose control of their employees if too many of them work at home or away from the office.

She agreed with Davis, however, that teleworking makes sense and would be attractive to a new generation of federal employees.

Davis said a greater urgency exists now than in the past for offering federal employees telework options. Heavy commuter traffic affects the Washington, D.C., area, and lengthy travel time has an impact on workers’ lifestyles.

The government is missing the boat if it does not embrace telework, he said.

Federal agencies must also make faster hiring decisions to attract new employees, Springer said. OPM has set a governmentwide target this year to have federal agencies make 50 percent of their hiring decisions within 45 days after a vacancy announcement expires.

Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee’s Federal Workforce and Agency Organization Subcommittee, said the federal workforce will soon experience a retirement surge.

He said OPM must have the funds and resources to help federal agencies recruit and retain new employees.

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