Remarks Delivered by
Senior Advisor to Vice President Gore and
Director, National Partnership for Reinventing Government
Office of Personnel Management Strategic Leadership Summit
March 15, 2000
Thank you Janice, for kind introduction. Before we get to those Hammers you talked about, I'd like to have a little conversation with all of you.
Listen to what one federal employee told us during last year's Employee Satisfaction Survey: "My job is very rewarding and serves the nation in a real way. What my office does impacts many lives in a positive way, and I am proud to be part of it. My coworkers are wonderful, motivated people who, for the most part, do a fine job. We use technology to a great extent and it makes our work far more productive."
That sounds like we're doing pretty well. And Janice LaChance deserves a lot of credit for comments like that and so do all of you. She's a true believer -- a committed "reinventor" who's been one of NPR's most valuable and enthusiastic allies since she's been at OPM.
Janice's vision for OPM is in alignment with NPR's goals -- to recruit the right people with the right skills and get them in the right place at the right time in the right way. That's a pretty tall order and I commend her for even attempting it. This gathering is an example of her commitment and vision. I think it's great that she has called the entire OPM leadership team to this strategic summit to discuss OPM 's leadership role in the federal community as well as the way your manage your own agency.
In her testimony before the Senate's Subcommittee on the Oversight of Government Management last week, she talked about how the government - just like the private sector - "must engage in the 'war for talent.' We must secure, develop, and retain the talented people we need to accomplish our mission for the American people."
Well, I'm ready to go to war with you.
And she would be the first to say that while we've made significant progress in some areas, we still haven't accomplished our shared goal of making the federal government America's "model" employer.
At that same hearing, Comptroller General David Walker told the committee that the government's human resources planning is "ineffectual and could end up on the General Accounting Office's compilation of the worst management problems in the federal government."
Listen to what that same federal worker went on to say when the topic switched to human resources management: "However, our managers are stuck in the 19th century and fight every advancement. We are not treated as professionals...Real progress will be made only when... everyone is treated as a human being."
That's quite a contrast to the early part of that answer, right? But I think that sums up our human resources challenge pretty well. That's why we're working together to accelerate and build on the progress we've made.
The biggest human resources challenge we face in government is changing its culture. The current culture is hierarchical, process-driven, internally focused, "stove-piped." We need to create a culture that is more empowering, results-oriented, integrated across boundaries, and above all else, externally focused.
The only way we can change that culture is to enlist all of you to help. At NPR, we're interested in changing the culture of government by changing its conversation - when you change what people talk about you change the culture. That means focusing not only on operations results -- the stated mission of an agency or department -- but also on customer and employee satisfaction. Those three components we call "balanced measures." They answer the fundamental question about what results we should focus on and what should guide our day-to-day decision making. They dramatically change the conversation from things like budgets and activities, and headcount and process, to important conversations about customers, commitment, accountability and above all else outcomes.
And it requires any organization that wants good results on all three measures to use the talent and skills of employees to provide real input to decision-making and on how to get the best results. It's all about freeing up their energy to do their jobs the right way. As another employee who completed the survey put it, "Most employees will strive for excellence if they are allowed a little creativity. That's the fundamental belief the Vice President brought to the reinventing government initiative."
So today, I want to join Janice in a conversation with you about making the federal government a more compelling place to work, to get results American's care about. Because as managers from all over the country, you are the key to helping us create a 21st century workforce in the federal government.
NPR and OPM are natural partners in creating this workforce. Let me tell you just how important your role is in this cause.
It starts with customer service. The American Customer Service Index (ACSI) results unveiled on December 13, release the first survey of customer service ever undertaken in the history of the Republic, showed that several government agencies - OPM included - are delivering services equal to or better than private sector organizations.
The private sector has used this index since 1994 - a zero to 100 scale to gauge customer service levels. In 1999, for the first time, government agencies across the board chose customer "segments" central to their mission to be surveyed.
The average score for comparable private service sectors is 71.9. The average for federal government customers is 68.6, which includes regulatory functions -- and traditional income tax filing -- that "customers" don't necessarily look at favorably.
There were some other interesting findings from the survey. For example, compared with just two years ago, 60% of the public was more satisfied with government services. And the quality of government services exceeded customer expectations by over 10%.
Another key finding: Government employees who have direct contact with the public received high marks for attributes of courtesy and professionalism.
OPM surveyed some of its customers -- federal retirees and survivor annuitants. What were they asked? The survey asked about: the timeliness of payments; fairness of benefits; accessibility, clarity, and accuracy of information from OPM; the ease of use and convenience of OPM's telecommunication system; and the timeliness of OPM's response to inquiries.
The results: a score of 75, well above the government-wide numbers and better than comparable private sector. Congratulations Ed, Sid, and the entire RIS leadership team!
It also includes employee satisfaction. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand, because you can't treat your customers any better than you treat your people. NPR co-sponsored with OPM the second Governmentwide Employee Satisfaction Survey last year so agencies could get a sense of how they're doing and design and implement action plans responding to employees' concerns. We briefed OPM managers on what your employees told us. OPM was generally in the top third government-wide in employee satisfaction results. The largest improvement at OPM over 1998 came in the area of teamwork.
Part of the reason for these numbers is that you started recognizing and rewarding teams based on how well they achieved the agency's outcomes. This demonstrates the most important principle behind measuring employee satisfaction: If you not only ask employees what they think, but you actually take action, results will improve. Isn't that amazing? This might seem like common sense and it is. But it's also a critical, catalytic action for effecting real change. Again, congratulations!
I'm not sure, but part of it must be the switch from plaques to "Teddy's" at Janice's award ceremony. Everyone wants a bust of Teddy Roosevelt looking over them.
I want to especially acknowledge and thank OPM's Marilyn Gowing, director of your Personnel Resources and Development Center, for her leadership on the Employee Satisfaction Survey. You might have read about her in Mike Causey's "Federal Diary" piece in The Washington Post this morning. She's just won the Distinguished Service Award of the Society for Psychologists in Management -- the FIRST award winner to ever be chosen from the ranks of the public service sector. Congratulations, Marilyn...
We'll be publicly unveiling the government-wide employee satisfaction results at the end of March, so stay tuned for more on that. We need your active involvement to align human resources in agencies. That's where the change will take place.
Some other important players are finally joining the conversation that NPR and OPM have been having for some time now in the federal government. It's a unique aligning of the stars, the sun, the moon and the planets all at once. And it gives us a historic opportunity to build on our progress. It includes NPR and OPM, the President's Management Council (PMC), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the General Accounting Office (GAO). This conversation has the potential to transform the workplace in ways we couldn't have imagined just a few years ago.
The conversation is centered around what is still the # 1 problem in human resources management in the federal government and reflected in the employee survey: How to define "good performance" and how to deal with "poor performers."
As another employee in the survey phrased it, "High performers are recognized. However, non-performers are not dealt with. There is a negative impact to morale when high performers are continually loaded with tasks and non-performers are allowed to 'show up' and get their pay checks."
The PMC is conducting an aggressive campaign to support effective performance management throughout the government. It recently gave its blessing to a white paper entitled "Report to the President's Management Council on Managing Performance in the Government." This report contains a set of premises and principles that the entire PMC leadership has endorsed on performance management. It also contains an excellent set of best practices and practical ideas on how to implement these principles. The principles themselves are broken down into three main ideas: clearly communicate expectations; establish accountability; and take timely action.
To start the job of implementing these principles, the PMC members not only committed to communicating them within their agencies, they also agreed upon a set of goals for the PMC itself to accomplish in each of these three categories. Achieving these goals would in fact change the conversation and therefore the culture of government forever.
For instance, in the area of clearly communicating expectations, the PMC plans to share them with our labor partners as well as their agencies. It also plans to initiate an analysis of workforce capacity in each department and is counting on the tools OPM is developing to help them with this task.
In the area of establishing accountability, the PMC agreed that all SES and above ranked employees in the federal government will be evaluated using the concept of balanced measures and that under-performers in the senior ranks need to be identified and effectively dealt with before this year is out.
In the area of taking timely action, the PMC agreed to use balanced measures for recognition and reward programs and to improve employee and customer satisfaction scores as part of GPRA efforts. We're also committed to making sure this all becomes a permanent part of the federal government by working collectively to pass our civil service reform legislation this year. By the way, our legislation will be ready for the Hill to consider within a matter of weeks and it will include this same emphasis on balanced measures for the SES to evaluate performance and determine pay. It will also provide your customers the kind of flexibility they want in hiring and retaining the very best workers we can get.
I particularly want to thank Doris Hausser, Henry Romero and Peggy Higgins for their work with the PMC's representatives to articulate a common sense approach to performance management.
And I would be remiss if didn't salute OPM's own Carol Harvey, who worked so hard to make the PMC proposals a reality. She's doing great things at NPR.
OPM will also continue its efforts to make the government a model employer by promoting a family friendly workplace, increasing access to childcare, and striving for diversity.
But that's not all folks. For the first time, the President's budget proposal to Congress included a Priority Management Objective that focuses on human resources issues. The administration pledges to propose legislation to streamline hiring, improve recruitment and retention, and improve performance management. The OMB's budget narrative points out that employee satisfaction is critical to achieving good customer service and achieving agencies' missions. It also pledges that the Administration will continue strengthening labor management partnerships and conduct skill-building workshops to improve partnership efforts. All of which will be led by OPM.
As if that wasn't enough good news for one day, GAO has also committed itself to placing new emphasis on investing in what it calls the government's greatest asset - its people. The Comptroller General testified before Congress that "Federal employees should be viewed not as costs to be cut but as assets to be appreciated." GAO reviews of agencies' programs will include assessments of how agencies hire, train, keep, and reward the talent they need to accomplish their missions.
All this means that the conversation is happening at the top. Now, it's time to build on that momentum to create permanent change throughout the government. The heavens are aligned in our favor. But we need each of you to keep the conversation going, as the ad says. To spread the word that change is here and now. The change is the kind that drives job satisfaction up to levels double and triple that of staid, status quo, unreinvented, unempowered work place. We see it in the employee satisfaction results and you see it in your daily work with your customers. To let anyone continue to work in the old bureaucratic system is to abandon the mission we share, to make the federal government the best place to work in America.
We want to work with you - each and every one of you -- to take advantage of these opportunities - to make your jobs even more rewarding, while at the same time giving Americans solid results they care about. We need you to help create the model 21st century workforce so that reinvention becomes a permanent part of the culture of government - so it's embedded in everything we say and do.
Our key competitive resource is our people. Since you are the agency that is the government's human resources management agency, you set the tone for everyone else. Pledge to me now or promise Janice later that you will leave this conference committed to changing everyone's conversation by changing your own. Do it now and watch the culture shift.
After all, this is all about trust. Trust is a prized commodity in a democratic society. And the whole purpose of reinventing government, of getting the very best, motivated workforce possible, is to restore Americans' trust in their government - in the American ideal of self-government.
Your job is to create trust in the American system of government. And you can do this by helping change the conversation - to talk about employees, customers, and getting results American's care about.
As you know, the Vice President created his Hammer Award to recognize and honor those of you who are showing the way by helping us create a government that works better, costs less, and gets results Americans care about. It is a powerful symbol throughout the government of what reinvention is all about.
And the Hammers I'm presenting today are both tied directly to our goal of transforming the human resources community.
The Hammer Award represents your vision and hard work; your determination; and your dedication to positive change for the American people. It means that you followed your vision and plowed ahead to get results that matter to your customers.
The Hammer Award symbolizes the work you've done -- breaking apart and building up again. Both are needed to do business your way. You know that to do things differently in government, barriers have to be broken down and new approaches and new collaborations built up.
Janice already mentioned that the Interagency team that created Employee Express has been selected for a Hammer Award, and will have their own ceremony soon. But now it's my pleasure to recognize two teams today.
The first award we'll present today goes to the U.S. Investigation Service (USIS) in Annandale, PA. Through the efforts of Phil Harper and OPM's Jim King, over 700 federal employees became part of this employee-owned organization -- a phenomenally successful example of privatization.
The USIS provides an ever-expanding number of background investigations for the public and private sectors. These functions were previously carried out by OPM's Federal Investigations Office.
This successful Employee Stock Ownership Program was a first for the government. OPM reported in August 1998 that it had been able to drop the cost of Single Scope Background Investigations by more than 25% over two years, bringing the cost of such investigations down to 1989 levels.
Congratulations, Rich Ferris and team...I'll present their awards in a minute.
The second award goes to the Railroad Retirement Board-OPM Computer Match Team. This team reinvented the way Civil Service benefit and payment information is matched up to correctly pay benefits under the Railroad Retirement Act. The new system puts customers first, empowers employees, and cuts red tape. It's resulted in estimated savings or cost avoidance of more than $960,000.
Congratulations, Kenneth Zoll and Marc Fisher... and also Ed Flynn...