Senate explores improved supervisor training

By Max Cacas
Federal News Radio

This afternoon, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the use of work-life programs and initiatives, designed to help recruit and retain federal workers. It’s one of a recent series of oversight hearings into issues surrounding the federal workforce. Recently, the panel examined issues around the training of the next generation of federal agency managers.

For many years now, the care and feeding of the federal workforce has been the purview of Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka (D.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Government Management and the Federal Workforce — a part of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

During his recent hearing on “Training and Mentoring Programs for Federal Supervisors”, Akaka discussed legislation he’s drafted and introduced.


My Federal Supervisor Training Act (S. 674) would require each Federal agency to provide mandatory training to new supervisors and re-training every three years. The bill would require training on topics including setting employee performance goals; mentoring and motivating employees; fostering a fair and respectful work environment; addressing poor performance; employee whistleblower, non-discrimination, and other rights and protections, and other important topics. Supervisor training promotes better manager-employee relationships, improves communication, reduces conflict, and otherwise helps supervisors do their jobs better. And better supervisor performance leads to more effective government.

Nancy Kichak, Associate Director and Chief Human Capital Officer with the Office of Personnel Management, says her agency is currently developing plans as part of its broader goal of reforming the federal hiring process, to redefine training and mentoring programs for prospective federal managers.

“We’re working right now, at OPM, to develop a strategic plan for improving diversity in the federal workforce. A large part of that plan will be enhancing training, We are developing that plan with an interagency task force, and we expect that to be out soon.”

Marilee Fitzgerald, acting Deputy Secretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy, told the subcommittee about the Pentagon’s work in the area of improving training and opportunities for those aspiring to jobs as supervisors in DoD.

The Secretary of Defense has created the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW), which will provide deployable civilian experts to support efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other contingencies. A parallel effort is under way to synchronize civilian and military leadership training, with the goals of ensuring, where appropriate, common professional training and education between senior executive service (SES) and flag officers and increasing joint capability for SES personnel.

John Palguta with the Partnership for Public Service, told the subcommittee that one of their most popular federal worker surveys, time and again, points up the correlation between worker satisfaction and well-trained and effective federal supervisors.

“Since 2003,” he told the panel, “we’ve developed a ‘Best Places to Work in Government’ rating, based on employee survey data gathered by the Office of Personnel Management. The rankings are based on employee satisfaction. What we’ve found is that the largest variable that predicts satisfaction is their views of their supervisor.”

Palguta says the Partnership supports Senate Bill S 674.

Senator Akaka’s “Federal Supervisor Training Act” is currently pending in the Senate Homeland Security Committee, awaiting further action by the subcommittee and the full panel.


Related link:

Senate HSGAC: “Training and Mentoring Programs for Federal Supervisors” hearing website

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