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|President Obama's hiring reforms draw applause at personnel agency|
May 12, 2010
To get an idea of how bad the federal hiring process is, consider that Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry drew a rousing ovation Tuesday with these simple announcements:
"We are switching to résumés."
And: "The president is eliminating knowledge, skills and abilities essays as an initial recruitment requirement of the federal government."
This might seem like ho-hum stuff to the average person, but to those who packed the OPM auditorium for Berry's announcements, the changes represent a significant attempt to fix a system that takes too long and serves no one well.
President Obama wants the government to cut its hiring time -- from when a vacancy is announced until a person is hired -- to 80 days. Some agencies now take as long as 200 days. The president has also ordered federal agencies "to overhaul the way they recruit and hire," saying that "the complexity and inefficiency of today's federal hiring process deters many highly qualified individuals from seeking and obtaining jobs in the federal government."
In a presidential memorandum signed Tuesday, Obama instructed agency heads to take a series of actions by Nov. 1. They include getting rid of essay-style questions for people first submitting applications for federal jobs. Instead of writing essays -- in which candidates describe their knowledge, skills and abilities -- and filling out long, hard-to-understand forms, applicants will be allowed to submit cover letters and résumés or complete "simple, plain language applications."
It says something about the state of government communications when the president has to order officials to use plain language.
|Say yes to simplicity|
May 06, 2010
You might have missed it amid all of the fireworks over health care
reform, but the U.S. House passed a bill a few weeks ago that could
eventually have just as much impact on our daily lives as the
controversial health legislation, and it'll cost a whole lot less.
|House passes Braley Plain Language Act|
March 17, 2010
As part of
Sunshine Week, the House today passed Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D-Iowa) Plain Language Act (HR 946), which will require the federal
government to write documents, such as tax returns, federal college
aid applications, and Veterans Administration forms in simple,
easy-to-understand language. The bill passed the House by a widely
bipartisan margin of 386-33. Sunshine Week is a national initiative
to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and
freedom of information.
|Making the case|
August 06, 2009
When Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry announced in May that he would pursue pay reform during his tenure, he also outlined an important and somewhat unusual component of that effort. To make substantial changes to federal pay, and again attempt to close the pay gap between comparable jobs in the public and private sectors, Berry said he will have to convince the general public that it has a stake in such reforms.
He isn't alone in believing that management reformers must build
public awareness of and support for their initiatives if they're going
to achieve their goals in government performance. But the Obama
administration's management officials face a daunting challenge
educating the public about what government does, and making the case
that agencies need resources and attention to improve. ...
Stier said even when citizens do understand what federal agencies do, the language the government uses to describe management challenges, or even basic human resources issues, is often incomprehensible.
"The government even talks about vacancy announcements rather than job opportunities," Stier said. "There's a whole separate process that's grown up that's inside government-speak that does not translate to the public."
Those are formidable obstacles Berry -- and the administration as a whole -- will face if they are to educate the public about how government works and how it could work better. Berry has been appearing frequently at Washington events and at conferences across the country to make the case for a new dialogue about civil service to people who already are interested in management reform. And an October conference on pay and management reform sponsored by Harvard University and scheduled to be held in the Washington area, will attract listeners from outside the Beltway.
Stier agreed that it's important to rally the troops, the stakeholder groups that talk to the media and release reports, universities that communicate with students who are looking for jobs, and practitioners eager for a place to apply their skills. He also reiterated Berry's point that the dialogue about federal pay and employee productivity will have to extend far beyond the current boundaries of the debate to have any impact.
"All too often, we talk to ourselves and to a small population of people who are deeply invested in this," Stier said. "At the end of the day, what we have to demonstrate is that this matters to people who don't see this as their primary issue, but rather who have some other agenda -- be it the environment, or children, or defense, and unless you can connect this issue to that network of ideas, you don't succeed. It's performance for the sake of better outcomes in areas people care about."
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