Thursday, November 21, 2019

Guest Blogger Series: John Berry “What OPM is doing to Improve Hispanic Representation within Federal Service”

At the U.S. Office of Personnel Management we’ve worked steadily with partners across government to build initiatives to make the Federal workforce accessible to applicants, and responsive to emerging, twenty-first century needs.  More must be done – but I want to ensure the projects underway are well known both inside and outside of Washington.

We need a diverse set of: talent, experiences, and perspectives at every agency – and there are plenty of real-world examples that show it.  In October 2011, we re-launched USAJOBS.gov, the central site for all Federal job applications, with initially bumpy results. Fortunately for our agency, we had a diverse leadership team. Octavio Santiago, one of our young Hispanic employees, became a leading public face of OPM on Facebook answering questions and concerns people had.

That’s the strength of a diverse team – it not only helps you avoid problems, it helps you recover quickly and thoroughly when you’re facing challenges.

Now, there’s still plenty of work to do to make the Federal Government an outstanding model of diversity and inclusion.  Looking at the statistics, it’s clear that we’re weakest in our recruitment among Hispanics, and among people with disabilities.

To address the underrepresentation of Hispanics in the Federal workforce, we brought together the Hispanic Council on Federal Employment, co-chaired by my chief of staff, Liz Montoya.  At the end of FY 2011, the percentage of Hispanics in the Federal workforce rose from 8.0 to 8.1%.   That’s about 4,000 more Hispanics working in the Federal government today.  It’s progress in the right direction, but we must do better.

We’re recommending strong accountability measures that clearly identify barriers to Hispanic recruitment and inclusion.  We will partner with student programs, Veterans programs and Hispanic Serving Institutions to promote our Student Pathways Programs and promote the idea of a career in Federal civil service.

New regulations lay out three clear and streamlined pathways into Government:  First, current students can apply to internships.  Second, people who have graduated get a two-year window to apply to recent graduates programs.  And third, our revitalized Presidential Management Fellows program now lines up with the academic year.

Through each of these three pathways, participants learn what it’s like to work in government, gain on-the-job experience, and have the possibility of converting into Federal employment.  These pathways will better enable the Federal government to recruit and retain top talent fresh from learning the latest skills – for example, Octavio, the employee I mentioned earlier, is a Presidential Management Fellow.

Each of these efforts fits in with OPM’s broad mission to recruit, retain and honor a world-class workforce for the American people.  And they also fit with specific direction from President Obama.

By Executive Order, the President directed OPM to take the lead in developing and implementing plans for Diversity and Inclusion in each Federal agency. The agency-specific plans are almost all are based on four main pillars.

First pillar: An active and robust diversity and inclusion council.  For any plan to work, it will require the attention and focus of an active group.  Human resources officers and Equal Employment Opportunity specialists and Diversity and Inclusion officers will need to communicate with one another, collaborate, and integrate their work.

Second pillar: Mentorship.  Mentors are key supports to any career – including mine.  They help answer questions that are daunting to even ask.  How do I earn a promotion?  How do I give helpful feedback to colleagues?    These are questions that can make and break careers, no matter who you are.

Third pillar:  Diversified leadership.  Diverse leadership not only serves as an example to ambitious employees that they too can rise, it also is essential to the goals we want to achieve – doing the work of the American people to the best of anyone’s abilities.

Fourth pillar: Metrics and accountability, so that we can measure the impact of our plans, across agencies.  This builds transparency and accountability into each Diversity and Inclusion plan, allowing us to know if it’s working.

Make no mistake, to rise to the challenges of this century; our country will need every American – of every race, gender, age and orientation.  That’s why OPM strives every day to uphold our bedrock merit principle: employees should be judged by how well they do the job – and nothing else.

John Berry is the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and is responsible for recruiting, hiring, and setting benefits policies for 1.9 million Federal civilian employees. Calling this a new day for the civil service, he is reinvigorating the Federal workforce to meet the challenges of the 21st century.