Heitkamp to offer workforce reform bill

Sen Heidi Heitkamp 

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) plans to reintroduce legislation to promote supervisory training, to make public service more attractive to millennials and to increase agencies' hiring flexibility.

"We're getting older," Heitkamp said at a May 11 event hosted by the Senior Executives Association, adding that one-third of the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement by 2019. "We need to figure out retention. It's incredibly expensive to hire people."

In the last session of Congress, Heitkamp introduced the Flexible HIRE Act aimed at increasing human resources flexibilities and improving federal hiring and retention practices. She also introduced the Supervisor Training Act, which would mandate training for managers across government.

Heitkamp said the skill sets and productivity that earn promotions do not necessarily translate to adept personnel management, and that the supervisory training will help "give people the skills to deal with personnel and personnel conflict."

A spokesperson for Heitkamp told FCW via email that these bills are "legislative priorities" and specified she "will introduce" the Supervisor Training Act again this Congress.

Heitkamp promised that the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee "is going to be very dedicated to the workforce." Heitkamp is a member of the committee, and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management. However, she admitted that her bills will have to jockey with healthcare and tax reform for spotlight in the 115th Congress.

"This Congress is overtaxed already," she said. "It's going to be really hard to get attention to other issues."

Heitkamp also said she has "found a partner" on workforce issues across the aisle in subcommittee chairman Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).

"He is committed to being a good board of directors for the federal workforce," she said.

SEA President Bill Valdez told FCW that SEA is working with the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget, including a "very senior" political appointee within OMB, on workforce reform.

"We're getting a very positive response. They're very receptive," he said. "There's a real and sincere interest, and we're making progress with them."

Additionally, SEA and the National Academy of Public Administration announced May 9 they had signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to improve civil service management. SEA unveiled its new strategic direction in a May 11 announcement – the group is looking to take a more active hand in building a leadership pipeline for federal agencies and to have more of a voice in policy debates.

Valdez added that he personally "would love a new accountability system for federal employees" that would modernize the outdated performance review system and encourage employees to take "calculated and appropriate risk without fear of failure."

"You can't do this under current OPM regulations," he said. "It's either going to take legislation or OPM to review" its policies.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter


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