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Office of Personnel Management Optimas Award Winner for Service

A far-reaching initiative centralizes HR operations for three dozen federal agencies, eliminating duplication of effort and strengthening recruitment and succession planning.

September 7, 2011
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Related Topics: HR Services and Administration, Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS/HRIS), Service
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A directive from the C-suite takes on a whole new meaning when your boss is the president of the United States. For the Office of Personnel Management, the challenge from the White House three years ago was to play a central role in turning the federal government, with disparate agencies and 1.8 million employees, into a single efficient, cost-effective business.

    OPM is meeting that goal through its Human Resources Line of Business—an initiative that is creating a modern, standardized and interoperable HR function cutting across three dozen federal agencies.

    OPM has developed the first end-to-end federal HR business process. Previously, each federal agency handled its own HR functions, creating duplication and waste. Instead of individual agencies managing their payrolls, they centralized through five shared-services centers. Consolidating HR data and processes will result in cost savings of $1.1 billion, OPM estimates.

    OPM is not just addressing transactional HR. It is also helping to align jobs with agency missions, implement pay for performance and strengthen recruiting and succession planning as the government prepares for a potential federal retirement wave.

    The government’s Web-based training centers have improved employee development and made it more accessible. For instance, a park ranger can take a course remotely on his Palm Pilot.

    Training opportunities can be used to tout a federal job. With nearly 50 percent of the federal workforce eligible to retire within the decade, OPM has to be innovative in attracting talent. Among other things, it is introducing telecommuting.

    "We’re trying to accommodate the modern workforce, which is more varied than in the past, with job flexibility," says Norm Enger, director of the HR Line of Business.

    If it sounds as if OPM is trying to make federal HR look more like its corporate counterpart, that’s because it is. In spring 2004, the agency gathered recommendations from 43 private- sector organizations on how to improve federal people management.

    "This was brand new for the federal government," Enger says.

    The impetus for the HR Line of Business, however, didn’t come from companies, but rather from an effort by the federal government to make itself more user-friendly. In 2002, a program called the President’s Management Agenda launched 24 electronic-government initiatives.

    Five of them focused on human capital. Enger managed one that resulted in the development of USAJobs.gov, a Web site that facilitates government recruiting. The number of visitors to the site’s previous incarnation was 20,000 each day. It now registers 300,000 daily.

    After these successes, the Office of Management and Budget decided in 2004 to look at a larger overhaul of the business of government, making OPM a focal point.

    OPM convened 24 other federal agencies to hash out the vision and goals for the HR Line of Business. The talks produced "seminal" reports, Enger says. The most prominent one is theBusiness Reference Model , which describes how the government is being organized around common business areas and the people management processes that support them.

    "The HR community in the federal sector is very proud that for the first time they have been able to publish the documents," Enger says.

    For its efforts to create a modern HR function across the federal bureaucracy, the Office of Personnel Management wins the 2007 Optimas Award for Service.

A Washington-based federal agency with 5,000 employees, the Office of Personnel Management serves as the HR department of the U.S. government. Along with the Office of Management and Budget, it is probably the most influential agency in the internal management of the federal bureaucracy. OPM’s mission is to ensure that the U.S. government has an effective civilian workforce.
 

OPM provides human capital advice to the president and federal agencies. It delivers HR policies, products and services; ensures compliance with merit system principles; and provides guidance on labor-management relations. It offers programs to improve federal workforce performance while holding other agencies accountable for their human capital practices.

Workforce Management, March 26, 2007, p. 31 -- Subscribe Now!

 

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