Trump administration drafting, presenting civil service modernization ideas

It’s been a busy three months fo the Trump administration, which spent the bulk of this past winter researching and developing new ideas to improve the federal hiring process, declutter performance management systems and retrain employees for future-state jobs.

Officials have also drafted and presented civil service modernization concepts to the Office of Personnel Management director, chief human capital officers and Office of Management and Budget, according to a 2018 second-quarter update on Performance.gov.

The update describes the administration’s efforts to date to strategically manage, enhance and update the federal workforce for the 21st century. The initiative is one of 14 cross-agency priority goals the administration included in the new President’s Management Agenda.

Agencies during the second quarter of 2018 analyzed previously-drafted proposals, alternative performance management systems and collected findings from the Government Accountability Office and Merit Systems Protection Board to identify possible areas where the administration could make legislative, regulatory or administrative improvements.

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And the administration has researched workforce statistics on the General Schedule and Title 5 leave systems, as well as outside studies on pay and leave to better understand other perspectives on the topic.

Those activities come as the Federal Salary Council voted in April to review the current methodology it uses to make recommendations and key decisions about federal pay. The council described its plans to hear from experts both in and outside government on how it could best compare federal pay and compensation with the private sector.

In addition, the Trump administration spent the second quarter of 2018 drafting guidance on the correct way to apply veterans preference when using several hiring assessments. While speaking with reporters earlier this year, Pon had mentioned OPM would update agencies on using veterans preference.

Also in the second quarter of this year, OPM led the first sessions to design a “reskilling” playbook and conducted research from industry, academia and other federal agencies on “upskilling” existing employees for new kinds of work.

OPM and OMB have spoken often about their intention to “reskill” current federal employees for future work but haven’t offered much detail to date. OMB Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert has described this initiative as a vital to the success of the President’s Management Agenda, as 60 percent of the federal workforce is eligible to retire within the next 10 years.

Additionally, the administration drafted OPM’s first research agenda, which describes a wide range of agencies’ current and emerging skills and mission needs.

OPM also trained government human resources specialists on hiring authorities and collaborative thinking at the Housing and Urban Development Department’s annual HR conference in April, the update said.

At the beginning of 2018, OMB held an inter-agency design session with members from federal HR, IT, industry and academia.

“One of the winning proposals was to create a ‘turbo-tax like hiring tool for managers,’ with the goal of empowering hiring managers to drive outcomes and achieve greater transparency in hiring,” Performance.gov update reads. “Within a 90-day time frame, OPM, in partnership with OMB, created a prototype for an intuitive, digital service to engage, educate and support managers in the hiring process.”

OPM and OMB senior leaders have signed off on the hiring tool prototype. Federal hiring managers also tested the design and function of the tool, according to the update.

The administration’s moves to date make sense, as OPM Director Jeff Pon has described his intention to use legislation, executive orders and agency-specific and OPM authorities to push changes to the current civil service system.

Pon said he envisioned this spring, summer and fall as a critical time to putting these ideas into action.

OPM and the Trump administration so far have offered up a few significant proposals, including four recommendations to change the existing federal retirement system and three executives on employee accountabilityofficial time and collective bargaining.