Senior feds need better job prep, survey says

shrugging exec shutterstock ID: 441695707 

While new federal executives reported mostly positive experiences with their supervisors during the onboarding process, just half the new SES members reported satisfaction with their onboarding experience, according to a survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management.

The 2017 SES Onboarding Report found that 71 percent of new executives listed "commitment to public service" as one of the top three reasons for entering the SES. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they were actively recruited for their positions and 60 percent said they received help in navigating the hiring process.

The best preparation for the SES, according to respondents, was prior experience in government, having worked in multiple organizations, as well as on-the-job training — all of which were considered "effective" or "very effective" by at least 90 percent of respondents.

Online training courses were deemed the least effective.

While the vast majority – 80 percent – of respondents said that coaching and mentoring were helpful, just 27 percent of new executives reported being offered a coach to help them transition into their new role.

Overall, half of executives reported satisfaction with the onboarding experience, and only 45 percent said the onboarding process helped them "quickly learn key elements about agency culture, performance expectations, and influential networks instrumental to successful performance within the organization." Moreover, just 36 percent of respondents said onboarding was tailored to their needs.

The report noted that "agencies are inconsistent in relaying pertinent information to new executives."

Specifically, while 47 percent of new executives said their received required training information — regarding IT security, ethics, performance management, employee and labor relations, diversity awareness and the Hatch Act, for example — before the official onboarding process, 37 percent reported receiving no information about their new position, required training, pre-boarding forms and/or other recommendations in OPM's onboarding guidance.

During the onboarding process, 57 percent of executives received an explanation about how the executive performance management system worked, despite performance management being a central responsibility of the SES.

And 72 percent of respondents reported that their supervisors were regularly available to answer any questions during the onboarding process.

The survey -- which was conducted from Dec. 6, 2016, to Jan. 3, 2017, and covered agencies with 20 or more SES members -- sought feedback from 1,996 newly-appointed SES members about their onboarding experience. Of the 1,996, 821 responded — a 41 percent response rate.

Of those respondents, 60 percent were male, 80 percent were white and 87 percent previously held a government position before entering the SES. Over half had been in government more than 20 years.

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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