2154 Rayburn House Office Building
Chairman Meadows, Ranking Member Connolly, and Members of the Subcommittee; thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to address our efforts at the Department of Homeland Security to enhance employee morale and engagement.
I am Angela Bailey, the Department’s Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO). I joined DHS in January of this year as a career federal executive with nearly 35 years of service, 30 of those in human resources.
I am responsible for the Department’s human capital program, which includes human resources policies, and programs, strategic workforce planning, recruitment and hiring, pay and leave, performance management, employee development, executive resources, labor relations, diversity and inclusion, and human resources operations for DHS Headquarters employees.
My office also supports employee engagement efforts led by Secretary Johnson and Deputy Secretary Mayorkas. In fact, in my discussions with DHS prior to arriving, the Under Secretary for Management (USM) made it clear that employee engagement is a top priority for the Secretary, the Department, and accordingly, the Under Secretary for Management. Therefore, as the DHS CHCO, employee engagement is now one of my priorities.
DHS is a large and complex agency that holds an extraordinary set of missions. Our employees, many of whom are on the front lines, conduct difficult work under challenging circumstances. Every day they interact with the American public and people from around the world to prevent terrorism and enhance security, secure and manage our borders, enforce and administer our immigration laws, safeguard and secure cyberspace, and ensure resilience to disasters. In short, our employees do amazing work and are our greatest strength.
For example, recently within the past few weeks, the Secret Service successfully protected 32 Heads of State during the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C.; Transportation Security Officers discovered fifty-eight firearms in carry-on bags around the nation last week, 49 of which were loaded and 20 had a round chambered; the U.S. Coast Guard safely returned more than three dozen migrants found drifting in the Caribbean to Cuba; the crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dependable seized over $10 million worth of cocaine and marijuana within one week; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers and Border Patrol Agents and their partner agencies seized more than a ton of marijuana in the discovery of a tunnel connecting Calexico, California with Mexicali, Mexico; and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Eagle Pass Port of Entry seized more than $300,000 in heroin hidden in a car battery.
In summary, DHS personnel deserve all the support that we can give them.
As Secretary Johnson said recently in his “State of Homeland Security” address, “our people do extraordinary work every day to protect the homeland. Please consider thanking a TSO, a Coastie, a Customs officer, or a Border agent next time you see one.”
Despite my relatively short three months as CHCO, I am impressed by how aware leadership is of the extraordinary work our employees conduct every day to protect our nation. And, just as importantly, I can tell you that, from top to bottom, this Department is laser-focused on supporting our workforce so that they can accomplish their missions. Engagement is a mission-critical leadership issue. I have seen firsthand how engaged our leaders are in embracing our workforce, and it is clearly a top priority.
I was also encouraged to see that two of our Components – U.S. Coast Guard, with over 8, 000 civilian employees, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with over 14,000 employees – consistently score above the government-wide average on Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) indices. We are looking at their promising practices to see if we can leverage them for Department-wide use.
For example, Secretary Johnson, Deputy Secretary Mayorkas and the Under Secretary for Management have conducted numerous town hall meetings across the country, thanking employees for their service, recognizing achievements, responding to questions and receiving direct feedback on how we can improve our policies, services, and opportunities for our employees. Both the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary have also employed “undercover boss” experiences to literally walk in the shoes of frontline employees and show their respect and appreciation for the tough jobs they perform daily.
DHS component leadership has also reached out directly to their employees during town halls and other engagement events to keep the lines of communication open to ensure their employees know that they are valued, appreciated, and that their voices are heard.
Since last year’s testimony on this issue, we have accomplished quite a lot, including:
- Exhaustive work by my office to support components through multiple levels of review and refinement as they revised prior employee engagement action plans based on the 2015 FEVS results. This year, for the first time, action plans were signed by Component heads and submitted to the Under Secretary for Management Russell Deyo to ensure senior leader commitment and support. Under Secretary Deyo and I met with leadership in TSA, CBP and ICE to further discuss their action plans and engagement challenges. The Under Secretary and I are also working with representatives from all of the components through our Employee Engagement Steering Committee to oversee implementation of their plans and to share lessons learned and best practices.
- A new Department-wide employee engagement action plan, reflecting input from the DHS Employee Engagement Steering Committee, based on three major focus areas: selecting and empowering high performing leaders, developing excellent leaders at all levels, and enhancing communication. Some of these focus areas are a continuation of activities from previous years, including full implementation of our leader development framework. Other areas are leading or have led to new initiatives, including:
- A virtual leadership resource center, which provides guidance and resources for leaders located throughout the country on a number of areas including toolkits on innovation, conducting great town hall meetings, and stay interviews.
- Guidance to all components outlining expectations for leadership on engagement and performance management, and included a new leadership competency to evaluate engagement efforts in FY2016 SES Performance Plans.
- We are in the process of hiring a Chief Learning and Engagement Officer (CLEO), whose responsibility will be to grow and adapt DHS leadership’s engagement strategies.
- As we head into the next cycle of FEVS administration, which at DHS begins next week, we are working intensively with Components to encourage employees to participate in the survey through messaging that states how feedback leads to ideas, which leads to change, which leads to a more engaged workforce and increased morale.
Every day, the men and women of DHS carry out difficult and often dangerous work that often is unseen by the American public. They do an outstanding job and have a deep commitment to the mission. Through our efforts dedicated to employee engagement, we are determined to enhance their work experience and honor the contributions of our hard-working and dedicated workforce.
Thank you again for supporting our employees who protect us and our great Nation.