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Building a stronger civil service at state.

This past January, fulfilling a promise I made to myself when I was sworn in as DG, I stood up a team to improve the Civil Service experience in the Department. Civil Service employees constitute 41 percent of the Department's U.S. direct hire workforce. Their talent, enthusiasm and dedication--and continued professional development--are critical to the success of our mission. Whereas the Foreign Service Act applies solely to the Foreign Service, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) overseas Civil Service rules and regulations government-wide. We are working hard to make a substantive difference for our Civil Service employees within OPM guidelines.

My team reached out to employees, senior managers, subject matter experts and union officials to hear their concerns and suggestions. They listened to focus groups and received hundreds of thoughtful and constructive emails. The result of their efforts is a robust Civil Service reform agenda.

Employees asked for more transparency about positions available to Department employees for lateral reassignment, i.e., at the same grade or even below. (Higher-grade positions can only be sought by application through postings on USAJobs, per Merit System rules.) In June, we delivered the "Department-wide Reassignment Opportunities" site, a clearinghouse featuring jobs from every bureau. Easy to use, both for those seeking applicants and those seeking new positions, it can reduce hiring time and shorten staffing gaps--a win-win for job-seekers and hiring managers.

We also developed a unique tool to help employees take charge of their careers. The "Civil Service Career Trends Explorer" is a sortable database providing historical data on how other career Civil Service employees have transitioned through various jobs over the past 16 years. It also, for the first time, shares the Civil Service staffing complement for each bureau by grade and occupational series, enabling more strategic career planning.

To address a time-consuming Civil Service hiring process, we are utilizing shared hiring certificates to streamline the process. And we've taken steps to smooth the onboarding process. For example, we are providing information and resources to incoming veterans (approximately one-third of Civil Service hires and 12 percent of Foreign Service hires this fiscal year) to smooth their transition to the civilian workforce and Department culture.

Employees and the Department have a shared interest in employee professional development. This fall we will launch four rotational pilots to help employees gain experience and a broader perspective. Two of these, managed by OPM, will facilitate interagency details. Another will initially focus on a particular occupational group. The fourth will be a limited, closely managed job swap among three regional and three functional bureaus. Still in development are changes to the performance management system. While evaluations do not drive promotions in the Civil Service's rank-inposition system as they do in the Foreign Service's rank-in-person system, we can make the process more relevant and useful to supervisors and employees alike.

There's much more we are planning to do. These initiatives provide a solid foundation upon which we will continue to build a talented, agile and diverse workforce equipped to fulfill the Department's mission. If you have thoughts or ideas, please feel free to share them with us at CSReform@state.gov.

ARNOLD CHACON

DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE
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Title Annotation:Direct from the D.G.
Author:Chacon, Arnold
Publication:State Magazine
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2016
Words:532
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