OPM chief looks to elevate CHCOs

In a new memo, Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon wants to make sure agency human capital chiefs have a seat at the top table.

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Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon wants to make sure agency human capital chiefs have a seat at the top table. In an April 23 memo to federal agency heads, Pon said he wanted agencies to assign the chief human capital officer role to individuals in the topmost ranks at agencies.

"I believe the role of the CHCO should be assigned to an individual at a very senior-level who has the trust of the Secretary or agency head and serves as an integral part of the leadership team," Pon wrote. "The CHCO should share accountability with the other members of the leadership team for the agency’s bottom line performance, mission results, accountability, and best use of taxpayer money."

Pon said the move is necessary because of Trump administration initiatives that will affect the federal workforce.

"With major civil service reforms, information technology modernization efforts and changes to various Federal benefit programs under consideration, I need the advice and assistance of the most senior management officials in planning and implementing human capital initiatives," Pon said.

Jeff Neal, an executive at the human resources consultancy ICF and former CHCO at the Department of Homeland Security said he agreed that "the CHCO should have the confidence of the agency head and should be a member of the agency’s senior leadership team."

In an email to FCW, Neal said the best way to accomplish this is to take an agency's senior human resources executive out of the administration or chief financial officer organization and make that person a direct report to the agency secretary or deputy secretary.

Neal said that designating the CFO or the assistant secretary for administration as the CHCO isn't the answer. "Most people found that did not work well because the [dual-hatted] CHCO did not attend meetings with OPM and did not know much about HR matters," he said.

Neal also cautioned against the CHCO job going to political appointees "across the board."

"There are some excellent CHCOs who are political appointees," he said, "but the track record for political CHCOs is not great."

The memo from Pon may be evidence that momentum is building behind administration plans to change workforce rules to make it easier to fire low-performing feds and offer pay for performance, and even to rethink the general pay schedule.

At an April 24 web event hosted by GovExec, OPM workforce policy lead Mark Reinhold said the agency is "very interested in taking a fresh look at things, and doing an assessment of the rules and the regulations and the policies that are on the books today and see what needs to be changed in order to meet the needs of today's federal government and tomorrow's federal government.”

The memo calls on agency heads to confirm their CHCO assignment to OPM by April 27.

FCW staff writer Chase Gunter contributed reporting to this story.

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