Enhancing the Role of the US Office of Personnel Management

  Memo #5 of Strengthening the Federal Workforce

Summary: Given the current human resources management challenges facing federal agencies of all sizes, we believe that it is imperative that U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) take on an enhanced leadership role and substantially bolster its efforts to ensure the presence of a stable and high performing federal workforce.

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Recommended Actions

1. Comprehensive evaluation of the personnel management operations of Title 5 and Title 5-exempt agencies. As part of the transition towards more flexible personnel management systems, there are a number of federal agencies currently exempt from the civil service rules and procedures outlined in Title 5 of the U.S. Code. As a result, the current landscape of federal human resource management is considerably varied, with some agencies operating under strict Title 5 guidelines and others provided increased flexibility to tailor their personnel systems to their unique needs. While the overriding intent of agency exemptions to Title 5 has been to enhance agency personnel operations, OPM should initiate a comprehensive review effort to assess the benefits of Title 5-exempt federal personnel systems and how these potential benefits might be achieved across all agency personnel systems.

2. Comprehensive assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of Title 5 personnel requirements. Related to the first recommendation, we believe that the current personnel management structure outlined in Title 5 of the U.S. Code should be substantially restructured to better align with the realities of managing federal personnel in the contemporary labor market. For many years, OPM has led the effort to guide agencies on effective means of managing their personnel resources within the existing statutory framework of Title 5, but, given the rapidly changing workforce environment, we believe that it is the appropriate time for OPM, along with the President and Congress, to identify and revise those portions of Title 5 not fully compatible with the needs of high performing human resource management systems.

3. Reinforcement of OPM’s Leadership Role and Human Capital Capacity. This recommendation centers on strengthening OPM’s image as the “go to” source for human resource related consulting services. A significant portion of OPM’s work is currently driven by agency requests for service. However, this role can be expanded. This will likely require a restructuring of the agency to leverage resources. OPM needs to be seen as the primary source for solutions, strategies, and services for the federal HR system. For example, OPM can further bring together resources much like it has done with the HR University program. HR University is designed to increase the professional development of human resource professionals across the Federal Government by identifying the best training resources and sharing those resources across agencies. If OPM strengthens its internal capacity to provide additional consulting type services, this may result in substantial savings for the Federal Government across agencies. Another example of the kind of effort that should be fostered is OPM’s recent establishment of the Innovation Lab. The Innovation Lab brings people together in an environment that is designed to foster collaboration and creativity as they address challenging problems.

4. Increased leverage of technological innovation. Human resource management over the past 20 years has moved away from standardized processes; however, technological advancements over the past 10 years have created opportunities for more effective personnel management efforts through greater standardization and agency collaboration. For example, most agencies were granted the authority to develop and manage their own recruitment and assessment practices in the mid-1990s. The result has been a highly variable recruitment and assessment landscape where a select group of agencies have fully leveraged newer Web 2.0 technologies in this area (e.g., the U.S. Peace Corps) and others, often with less expertise and/or funding, maintain practices that are dated or ineffective in recruiting and placing younger job applicants. Overall, such technological variation is not conducive to achieving broader personnel management goals, and OPM should take the lead in identifying those areas where standardization might benefit all agencies.