Executive Order - Strengthening the Senior Executive Service
It is in the national interest to facilitate career executive continuity between administrations; to increase senior leadership attention to, and involvement in, executive recruitment; to reduce unnecessary burdens on applicants for executive positions; and to efficiently document demonstrated executive experience. Furthermore, it is imperative to periodically explore and promote new selection methods that effectively and efficiently identify the most capable and talented candidates for executive leadership positions to enhance the breadth and diversity of experiences among our Federal executives; to better support, recognize, and reward our executives, especially our top performers; and to strengthen executive accountability, all while maintaining a system that is focused on the public interest and free from improper political influence. An important aspect of strengthening our Senior Executive Service (SES) members is valuing the work they do every day, rewarding excellence, professionalism, and outstanding achievement through special act awards, Presidential Rank Awards, and other non-monetary and honorary awards.
The Executive Order creates a Subcommittee of the President’s Management Council (PMC) to advise OPM, members of the PMC, and the President on implementation of the order and additional ways to strengthen and improve the SES workforce. The Deputy Director for Management at OMB, the Director of OPM, and three other members of the PMC will serve on the Subcommittee. The Subcommittee will select at least two career members of the SES to advise them and will collaborate with the Chief Human Capital Officers Council.
The E.O. requires that agencies take several actions.
Performance Award Funding for career SES and SP employees: Starting in FY 2017, agencies should limit their aggregate spending on agency performance awards for SES and Senior Level (SL) and Senior Scientific or Professional (ST) employees to 7.5 percent of aggregate SES and SL/ST salaries respectively. OMB and OPM shall undertake a review of, and revise as appropriate, their current guidance regarding aggregate spending on such awards. In addition, agencies should allocate awards in a manner that provides meaningfully greater rewards to top performers. Within 120 days of the date of this order, OPM shall issue, as appropriate, additional guidance regarding the distribution of such awards.
Pay Setting for SES and SP employees: The heads of agencies with SES positions that supervise General Schedule (GS) employees shall implement policies, as permitted by and consistent with applicable law and regulation, for initial pay setting and pay adjustments, as appropriate, for career SES appointees to result in compensation exceeding the rates of pay, including locality pay, of their subordinate GS employees. Similar policies shall be implemented by heads of agencies for Senior Professional (i.e., SL or ST) employees that supervise GS employees.
SES Hiring System: Within 90 days of the date of this order, OPM shall evaluate the current Qualifications Review Board (QRB) process and issue guidance to agencies about materials that would be acceptable for QRB consideration and that will serve as an alternative or replacement to the current lengthy essay requirement for QRB submission, which may deter qualified applicants for SES positions or put an additional burden on human resources staff. The guidance shall also advise agencies about ways to streamline their initial application requirements for SES positions.
The heads of agencies with SES positions shall examine the agency's career SES hiring process and make changes to the process to make it more efficient, effective, and less burdensome for all participants. Agencies shall simplify the initial application requirements for SES positions consistent with OPM and should only request critically necessary technical qualifications, with the goal of minimizing requirements that may deter qualified applicants from applying. Agencies shall also monitor time to hire of SES positions, and identify appropriate process improvements or other changes that can help reduce time to hire while ensuring high quality of hires.
Rotational Assignments: By May 31, 2016, the heads of agencies with 20 or more SES positions shall develop and submit to OPM a 2-year plan to increase the number of SES members who are rotating to improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration. While agency specific targets will not be required, this order establishes a Government-wide goal of 15 percent of SES members rotating for a minimum of 120 days (including to different departments, agencies, subcomponents, functional areas, sectors, and non-federal partners) during FY 2017, and thereafter, in order to ensure the mobility of the corps while also maintaining stability of operations. Within 45 days of the date of this order, OPM shall issue guidance for implementation of section 3(a)(v) of this order. These plans shall take into consideration the policy priorities of the agency, agency needs and rules in the context of administration transitions, needs identified in agency hiring plans and succession plans, the development opportunities listed in individuals' Executive Development Plans (EDP), and the Federal Government's interest in cultivating generalist executives with broad and diverse experiences who can lead a variety of organizations.
Apart from the above required actions, a phased approach will be used by agencies to implement four other actions – establish talent management and succession planning processes, require executive ownership of recruiting and hiring, increase professional development requirements, and create an onboarding program – among the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies, with 7 agencies implementing in FY16, 7 in FY17 and the rest in FY18.
- Require Executive Ownership of Strategic Recruitment and Hiring - Agency Deputy Secretaries (or their direct designees) will track and monitor SES vacancies and recruiting efforts on a regular basis, dramatically increasing senior leadership attention for recruitment and hiring.
- Increase SES Development Requirements - Executives will complete a minimum of one professional development activity per year and receive a leadership assessment, such as a “360-degree” multi-rater evaluation, at least every three years to inform their individual developmental needs. Non-career SES and equivalent appointees will also participate in regular leadership assessments.
- Create SES Onboarding Program - Agencies will establish formal onboarding programs for new executives informed by a framework created by OPM and PPO and successfully piloted in six agencies in 2015. Onboarding will be provided for career and non-career SES, SL and ST employees, and SES-equivalent positions.
- Establish Talent and Succession Management Processes - Building on successful models currently employed at the Department of Defense and in the Intelligence Community, agencies will establish a talent and succession management process for SES employees (and Senior Level (SL) and Senior Scientific of Professional (ST) employees as appropriate) to annually inform decisions about hiring, career development, and executive rotations.
In addition to the reforms outlined in the Executive Order, OMB and OPM will undertake a number of administrative actions. For example, OPM will launch an education campaign on SES performance and accountability and will establish an expert team to consult two or three agencies to address SES conduct and performance challenges.