Director Ahuja’s Remarks to the Chief Human Capital Officers Council
Below are OPM Director Kiran Ahuja’s remarks to the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council public meeting on December 14, 2021, as delivered:
I’m about one week away from my six-month mark as Director of OPM. In that time, I’ve focused OPM’s efforts on three major areas of work. First: bolstering our role as the federal government’s strategic human capital leader. Second: rebuilding the federal workforce. And third: positioning the federal government as a model employer for others to follow. I’m incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made already, and CHCOs have been vital to our success.
As a case-in-point, as we worked to bring the CHCO Council back to OPM, CHCOs were instrumental in informing our draft 2022–26 Strategic Plan. We look forward to working with CHCOs on the implementation of this plan.
A major part of this work is rebuilding the federal workforce, and defining the future of work. We’ve launched four new hiring authorities over the last several months, including one to help re-hire federal employees who left for positions in other sectors, and one to help military spouses join the federal workforce.
But the two I want to focus on briefly are designed to help agencies bring on post-secondary students and recent college graduates. Less than 7% of the Federal workforce is under the age of 30, while nearly 28% of Federal employees are eligible to retire in the next 5 years. Given those realities and the growing need for new skill sets across agencies, this is a significant risk to our mission effectiveness and the long-term health of Federal agencies.
Our hiring authorities are working to address this, and we’re also planning to reinvigorate Pathways programs. Our goal is to get agencies reengaged with four-year colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and other learning institutions.
The recently signed Bipartisan Infrastructure bill has created additional urgency for agencies to hire quickly. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild the federal workforce, and success hinges on hiring essential, mission-driven roles: Scientists to combat climate change, engineers to repair and rebuild our roads and bridges, and workers to help ensure that every community in America has clean water, just to name a few.
To help them meet the moment, we issued a Talent Surge Executive Playbook and a Hiring Authorities Fact Sheet to help agencies plan strategically, recruit and hire the staff they need, and better understand the hiring authorities and flexibilities available to them. Our conversations with you to date are helping us inform government-wide hiring actions we can take to support surge hiring. We look forward to working with many of you one-on-one to develop hiring plans and are looking for opportunities to collaborate across government, as well.
All of this is playing out against the backdrop of a pandemic, the likes of which has never been seen in our lifetime. We recognize that COVID-19 upended old work norms, but it also created new one, and that there’s no going back. While many federal employees continued to work on-site throughout the pandemic, many others leaned into flexibilities like remote work and telework, which proved critical to ensuring vital services continued.
Recognizing this, OPM released an updated 2021 Guide to Telework and Remote Work in the Federal Government, which demonstrates our forward leaning approach to these flexibilities. We also launched a new Future of Work webpage with tools, resources, guidance, training. We will continue adding to it over time to support all of your agencies during this transition to hybrid work period and in the long term. CHCOs, specifically through the Future of Work Working Group, have provided valuable input into the guidance and resources we’ve issued here at OPM.
As we work to define the future of work, we are committed to ensuring every federal job is a good job. With more than two million people employees, the federal workforce is the largest workforce in the nation. At OPM, we want to harness that influence, and make sure the federal government is positioned as a model employer. The CHCO Council has been instrumental to that cause, starting with our ongoing efforts to keep federal employees safe in these unprecedented times.
As Co-chair of Safer Federal Workforce Taskforce, I’ve appreciated the dialogue with CHCOs that has shaped the development and now implementation of the vaccine mandate. And if I can just take a moment to pat us all on the back…we have a 96.5 percent compliance across the federal government. That would not be possible without your partnership, so thank you for your leadership, partnership, and support in making this happen!
Our Model Employer efforts also include incorporating Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility — or DEIA — into the entire federal employee lifecycle. We worked with the White House to establish Agency DEIA EO Implementation Teams, stand up the DEIA Learning Community on Max.gov, and issue the Governmentwide DEIA Strategic Plan. The CHCO working group on DEIA has also surfaced promising practices in embedding DEIA across the human capital lifecycle, which you will hear more about later.
Finally, serving as a model employer means honoring the incredible federal workforce. OPM reinstated the Presidential Rank Awards this year to celebrate senior executives in the federal workforce who are doing incredible things on behalf of the American people. And we have 4 CHCO winners among us today and I’m excited to share some of their accomplishments in a few minutes!
Looking forward, I’m thrilled that OPM — with engagement from the CHCOs and agency Deputy Secretaries — will help deliver on the Biden-Harris Management Agenda. I am going to hand it over to Margot Conrad to discuss some of the CHCO Council’s key operational accomplishments from this past year.
Kiran Ahuja serves as Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management