Workforce

White House hosts summit on future of workforce

Eisenhower Executive Office Building (Image: Wikimedia Commons) 

The Office of Management and Budget hosted human resources leaders from across the public and private sector to generate ideas for its plan to reshape the federal workforce with the future in mind

The symposium, which was closed to press, convened members of the private sector, government and academia to discuss technology, performance management, workforce retraining and civil service reform.

In its reform plans, budget and management agenda, the Trump administration is looking to private sector practices, as well as public-private partnerships as part of its workforce strategy. The adoption of private sector philosophies in government spaces is not a novel concept, for this administration or any of the recent ones.

So far the Trump administration's efforts to reshape the federal workforce have met with mixed success. Key portions of executive orders changing workplace rules officials see as too friendly to unions and making it easier to fire problem employees have been rebuffed in court. Congressional opposition to a planned federal civilian employee pay freeze is growing.

But the administration has other, more structural plans to center federal human resources policy in the White House, including a reorganization plan that shifts some Office of Personnel Management responsibilities into OMB while moving back office functions like payroll to the General Services Administration. On September 10, GSA posted a request for contractor support for planning, designing and implementing the OPM-GSA merger.

The American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, two of federal unions that sued to overturn the workforce executive orderes, were not invited to the discussion. The Senior Executives Association was represented at the event.

On Twitter, various attendees posted pictures and takeaways from the event, including posts from GSA chief Emily Murphy and Special Assistant to the President for Innovation Policy Matt Lira

Among the speakers on the government side were OMB deputy director for management Margaret Weichert and Office of Personnel Management director Jeff Pon.

One attendee described the symposium "as an effort to gather a wide swath of human capital experts to explore practical opportunities for improving the federal human capital arena."

"I think there will be a public report that comes out, but I would consider it a really big brainstorming session," the attendee said.

Weichert also talked about the Government Effectiveness Advance Research center, the proposed public-private partnership included in the reorganization plan and for which the White House has issued a request for information.

Another attendee added that while specific executive action was not announced, "I think you’ll see some action items come out of" the symposium, perhaps around the November timeline OPM has floated for reform proposals.

The second attendee applauded the focus on the changing nature of jobs and work because "the general schedule is not flexible enough to accommodate" the pace of change, but tempered the notion that government can simply adopt private sector practices.

"Hearing from private sector practices is always good, but you need to have a context," this attendee said. "Federal employment has a fundamental difference than the private sector."

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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