OPM tests tech for more collaborative workforce

The agency also has a mentoring pilot program

As part of its open-government initiative, the Office of Personnel Management has launched several collaborative technologies to create a more open workplace culture.

OPM’s initiative is championed by CIO Matthew Perry and is part of the Obama administration’s overall push for the government to become more transparent, participatory and collaborative.

OPM Director John Berry, informally known as the government's chief people person, shared the progress OPM has made in implementing innovative technologies that empower employees to learn from one another and share information during a speech at the FOSE Institute’s Knowledge Management Conference and Exposition May 2.

“Collaboration is getting people with the right skills on the right project…pulling them into the team that needs to get the job done,” Berry said. He also emphasized the importance of breaking down silos and reaching out to employees on a personal level.


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He discussed several efforts under way at OPM, including establishing open-government action learning teams of diverse stakeholders and government employees.

OPM has also taken advantage of the IdeaFactory, an online crowdsourcing tool the Homeland Security Department developed. OPM launched a site that allows employees to post ideas and discuss new workplace proposals. Berry said the site has only been up for about six weeks, but employees have already offered hundreds of suggestions.

In addition, OPM has created an internal training program, called Learning Connection, and developed searchable answers to frequently asked questions, which Berry likened to an Ask.com for the agency.

Berry said the feature gives employees a way to find pertinent information and contact agency managers if information is missing, essentially providing a system for enhanced user feedback.

Beyond technology, Berry said the agency has a mentoring pilot program in the works. When a young OPM staffer expressed concern about navigating the agency’s bureaucratic structure and suggested pairing newer employees with more experienced ones, Berry said he immediately endorsed the idea.

OPM has created a business case and a list of do’s and don’ts as part of the program. About 35 people are participating, although the agency received about 600 applications.

Ultimately, OPM officials hope to develop guidelines that other agencies could use to implement similar mentoring programs.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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