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Written testimony of MGMT Chief Human Capital Officer Angela Bailey for a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management hearing titled “Understanding the Millennial Perspective in Deciding to Pursue and Remain in Federal Employment”

Release Date: 
September 29, 2016

342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Chairman Lankford, Ranking Member Heitkamp, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to address recruitment and retention of Millennials in the Federal Government.

I am Angela Bailey, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Chief Human Capital Officer. I joined DHS in January of this year as a career executive with nearly 35 years of federal service, including 30 years in human resources.

I am responsible for DHS’s human capital program, which includes human resources policy, 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.

Earlier in the summer, I laid out a plan for DHS to begin a hiring initiative and I’d like to provide you with an update on that as well as address further questions about attracting and retaining millennials, competition for talent with the private sector, and ways to better retain our employees.

DHS recognizes that a diverse workforce includes millennials, many who are students and recent graduates, and who bring enthusiasm, talent and unique perspectives to the workplace. DHS offers hundreds of internship opportunities to students every year, in addition to opportunities for recent graduates and Presidential Management Fellows.

On July 26-27 of this year, the Department hosted the DHS Cyber and Tech Job Fair here in Washington, DC. We received over 14,000 applications to five DHS-wide job announcements, interacted with several thousand candidates, conducted approximately 840 interviews and made 326 tentative job offers during and immediately following the fair.

My team and I are working closely with human capital experts across DHS to attract top talent, hire them using the full range of existing hiring/recruiting authorities, improve the application process, and retain our best talent using all available retention tools.

The Secretary, Deputy Secretary and Under Secretary for Management’s commitment and support of human capital initiatives have contributed to our ability to streamline hiring, expedite security clearances, and conduct a successful cyber and tech job fair, just to name a few.

Attracting Millennials

In the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, I have a team dedicated to attracting talent to DHS by improving our employment brand and ensuring the development and implementation of Department-wide recruitment strategies. We work closely with recruiters and human capital leadership from across Components, and hold regular meetings with the Corporate Recruiting Council, which oversees the creation and monitoring of targeted recruitment plans for specific mission critical DHS occupations.

The Federal Government competes for talent with the private sector, which can sometimes offer higher salaries pay to people whose talents are in high demand. In certain fields, such as information technology and cybersecurity, DHS must also compete with other agencies for top talent as human capital flexibilities vary across the Federal Government. In our recruitment efforts, it is critical that DHS emphasize its compelling homeland security mission, which we know can be particularly important for millennials. Our mission presents employees with opportunities for professional and personal growth not available elsewhere.

DHS Recruiting Strategies

DHS recently issued the DHS Strategic Outreach and Recruitment (SOAR) Plan focused on recruiting a highly qualified and diverse workforce, and millennials are identified as a key demographic in our recruitment strategy. We are proud to say that our use of the Pathways Programs has increased every year since DHS entered the program in fiscal year 2013, and we look forward to seeing the results of our hiring event in December.

One of the ways DHS engages millennials is through initiatives such as the Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative, which provides students pursuing cybersecurity-related degrees with an opportunity to work with top DHS cybersecurity professionals. In addition, we leverage social media as well as traditional recruiting and outreach methods to ensure the broadest reach possible. Our recruiters attend thousands of career fairs each year, many on college and university campuses, as well as middle schools and high schools. Our mission is vital to the American public, and we believe starting outreach to younger students broadens their worldview and sparks an interest in working for DHS.

Diversity and Millennials at DHS

I also wanted to share some statistics about diversity and millennials at DHS. Millennials (defined as those born after 1980 and currently under age 35) represent approximately 21 percent of our workforce at DHS, compared to 18.68 percent across the overall Federal Government. Millennials at DHS are more diverse than our already diverse overall workforce, with over 50 percent of millennials identifying as a member of a diverse racial or ethnic group, and 36 percent are women.

DHS employs millennials across multiple Departmental mission critical occupations, including more than 17,000 who are Transportation Security Officers at the Transportation Security Administration, almost 11,000 as Customs and Border Protection Officers and Border Patrol Agents at U.S. Customs and Border Protection and almost 300 as Emergency Management personnel at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

If you look at the youngest group of millennials or those under age 30, they represent approximately 9 percent of our workforce at DHS, compared to 7 percent across the overall Federal Government. In assessing DHS’s workforce who are under 30, 59 percent identify as a member of a diverse racial or ethnic group, and 42 percent are women.

Improving the Hiring Process

DHS strives to improve the hiring process within the agency. To help address concerns with the Department’s hiring process, DHS implemented a Hiring Reform Action plan in which one of its main goals is to improve communication with prospective employees. The plan outlines DHS’s commitment to promote regular communication to applicants during five key points of the hiring process: 1) receipt of initial application, 2) minimum qualifications determination, 3) referral of application, 4) update on status of application, and 5) result of application.

Since my arrival at DHS, I have focused on hiring process improvement for all occupations. My team in the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer has worked to gather all available hiring process data to assist Components in identifying barriers, reengineering steps, setting better operational targets, and identifying opportunities for additional automation. I am also focused on forging smart partnerships across DHS Components, lines of business, and federal agencies to ensure that DHS human resources personnel are aware of leading practices and can collaborate to achieve economies of scale.

We are hosting a hiring event in December that will allow us to take full advantage of the Pathways Programs hiring authorities to bring sought-after candidates into the Department, including millennials. In addition, we will use existing direct hire authorities to expedite hiring in such areas as acquisition and information technology. We have already seen measurable improvements on usage of special hiring authorities across DHS and will plan to exercise existing flexibilities in future hiring efforts.

DHS is also committed to gathering and reviewing manager and application satisfaction survey results in an effort to continually improve the hiring process.

Retention Strategies and Establishing Career Paths

Executives, supervisors and managers in DHS have a cadre of compensation and leave authorities for the purpose of recruiting and retaining a highly qualified and diverse workforce. For example, the DHS Deputy Under Secretary for Management recently established and promulgated a Retention Incentive Plan targeted particularly for cyber positions, which are a core occupation in which a large percentage are millennials. My office continues to be vigilant with regard to educating Component human capital leadership with various strategies for attracting and retaining quality talent using incentives that are within their grasp. The Department has revisited and updated its Recruitment, Relocation and Retention Incentive (3Rs) policies (as of August 2016) with an approach to extend the Component’s delegated use of these pay incentive tools to possible limits not used before. Additionally, DHS works consistently with OPM to establish specialized, higher than normal pay rates when necessary. Establishing special salary rates also ensures that the Federal government’s compensation programs are able to address existing or likely significant handicaps in recruiting or retaining well-qualified employees.

DHS clearly understands that millennials in the workplace are concerned about work/life balance. My office has equipped Component human capital leadership with non-monetary options such as telework and flexible work schedule policies. Together, my office and the Department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer have collaborated and dealt with issues such as providing a robust information technology foundation through obtaining and maintaining up-to-date, state-of-the-art communication tools for the virtual sharing of documents and projects, instant messaging, and using video chat capabilities. This also includes securing hardware such as laptops, tablets, video cameras and smartphones.

Another retention strategy is to establish career paths for employees. For example, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer developed Career Path Guides to describe the steps for employees to take for their professional development, addressing five mission critical occupations – Budget Analyst, Accountant, Cost Analyst, Internal Control Analyst, and Resource Analyst. The Career Path Guides describe for employees what is required for them to advance in their professional series. The guides highlight the importance of stretch assignments, certifications and mentoring, training, and other developmental activities. They are considered a pioneering effort with the potential to be used across the entire Federal Government.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also about to launch an innovative Career Path Tool for prospective and current employees. Employees will be able to look at functional career paths to see what opportunities for growth exist within the Agency. Employees will also be able to map out their own path, complete a self-assessment, seek input from raters, and learn what developmental opportunities exist within their Component. This tool will launch initially with 10 career paths and will expand another 10-15 in the coming year.

Engaging the Workforce

Employee engagement has been front and center at DHS, and we have been putting a great deal of thought and effort into building new approaches to support employee morale and engagement. We now have a Chief Learning and Engagement Officer in my organization who is spearheading these efforts.

Under Secretary for Management Russ Deyo chairs an Employee Engagement Steering Committee made up of senior executives from across DHS who collaborate on enterprise-wide solutions. As a group, they have agreed there are things we can do as a whole, but often, Component-specific solutions are the ones that impact employees on a more immediate basis. We have empowered Components to act, and have created a loop of accountability with them so that we know they are taking action, and we are assisting them in their efforts on an as needed basis.

We have enhanced communication so that all employees feel connected to one another’s work and to the Department as a whole. Communications from DHS leadership via email and on the DHS intranet are affirmatively employee-centric; and new mechanisms like a Department-wide e-newsletter and targeted distribution lists enable us to better reach out to relevant audiences. Several Components have established “ideation platforms,” providing employees a technology-enabled mechanism for providing feedback and input.

We have also increased leadership accountability, awareness, and empowerment related to employee engagement. Secretary Johnson and Deputy Secretary Mayorkas have been very clear in their expectations that employee engagement and morale are issues that all leaders at DHS must own. They also traveled across the country meeting employees in sixteen cities, holding town hall meetings, meet-and-greets, and “undercover boss” experiences in order to thank employees for their service and hear their feedback.

We have also provided toolkits for our executives, supervisors and managers. These included a guide for conducting great town hall meetings, an innovation toolkit, a guide for conducting stay interviews, as well as a behavioral interview guide provided to hiring managers that included questions to ascertain whether an SES applicant has a leadership style that fosters engagement. A leadership resources website houses all of these resources and regular communications to Senior Executive Service (SES) members and managers point to the site.

In addition, for the first time, DHS is integrating an element in SES performance appraisals that specifically addresses how well they are creating a culture of employee engagement.

OPM recently released the 2016 annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results, and this data reflects the impact of our efforts. Employee engagement at DHS, after six straight years of decline, went up three whole percentage points – from 53 percent in 2015 to 56 percent this year. This is regarded by OPM as statistically significant, and compares favorably to the one percent increase across the entire U.S. government. The increased morale at DHS was the result of some very hard work, and we hope these improved results are the beginning of a new, upward trend.

Instilling a Culture of Innovation and Creativity

Innovation is already occurring throughout DHS. Employees at the Department go to great lengths to find ways to enhance the way they work and deliver the mission. DHS senior leadership is committed to undertaking a number of initiatives to encourage innovation. Some examples of DHS innovation programs are the DHS Innovation Network’s Idea Storm, Science and Technology’s FED TALKS, Transportation Security Administration’s IdeaFactory, and U.S. Secret Service’s Spark!.

DHS Innovation Network’s Idea Storm

The DHS Innovation Network was brought together in July 2015 to participate in an Idea Storm designed to help DHS identify and prioritize key innovation challenges, identify a desired future state, and develop potential solutions. Idea Storm connected stakeholders from throughout DHS and allowed them to collectively agree upon, refine and plan for potential solutions to support innovation at DHS. As a result of this experience, the Network took steps to create an Innovation Toolkit, provide recommendations to support innovation at the enterprise level to the Employee Engagement Steering Committee, and took Idea Storm solutions back to their respective offices and Components to explore implementation.

Science and Technology’s FED TALKS

In the spring of 2015, Science and Technology launched FED TALKS, a new way to reward creativity and forward thinking in the spirit of healthy competition. The program called for out-of-the-box thinking on Science and Technology’s mission or improving the Directorate’s internal operations and processes. One goal of the program was to foster a culture of innovation and creativity. A second goal was to support a collaborative environment for idea sharing. The program was open to all Science and Technology federal employees. In less than a month, Science and Technology staff accessed the site more than 4,000 times, proving that not only does Science and Technology have great ideas but also staff are supportive of making their teammates’ ideas a reality. Science and Technology highlighted the winning FED TALKS at their Under Secretary’s Awards Ceremony.

Transportation Security Administration IdeaFactory

The Transportation Security Administration launched IdeaFactory in April 2007, a secure Web-based tool that allows employees the opportunity to submit ideas, provide comments on how to improve concepts, and rate ideas that should be recommended for implementation. IdeaFactory promotes innovation by allowing the Transportation Security Administration to engage employees and ensure that every member of its large, geographically dispersed workforce has a voice in how the agency and its operations evolve. It also collects constant input and perspectives on improvements to keep the agency flexible and effectively mitigate security threats; disseminates information about new and existing programs, initiatives and policies to front-line employees; and provides a forum for communication.

Today, the site has grown in popularity and approximately 12,000 employees visit IdeaFactory every month. The Transportation Security Administration has also enabled other federal entities by sharing the technology to enhance the way they do business. Furthermore, private and public groups have recognized the Transportation Security Administration citing IdeaFactory as a game-changing innovation.

U.S. Secret Service’s Spark!

SPARK! is an innovative and interactive web-based communication platform that the U.S. Secret Service launched in October 2015. SPARK! is a tool for facilitating a two-way dialogue between Special Agents; Uniformed Division Officers; Administrative, Professional and Technical employees; and leadership. It is a crowdsourcing communications platform that allows frontline employees to submit their ideas, suggestions and recommendations for improving the Secret Service. Success is evidenced by the 71 percent participation and 20 initiatives U.S. Secret Service has implemented in the first five months.

Improving Perceptions

DHS implemented a branding statement in fiscal year 2016 that expands upon the Department’s mission of, “With honor and integrity, we will safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values.” The statement is placed on DHS job opportunity announcements and viewable by the public on USAJOBS. In addition, DHS Components, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, developed a video called, Border Patrol – Protecting the Homeland and a diversity statement: CBP encourages women, minorities, and veterans to apply for an exciting career with U.S. Customs and Border Protection that U.S. Customs and Border Protection places on their announcements to further address the negative public perception of federal workers.

DHS Branding Statement

DHS is calling on those who want to help protect American interests and secure our Nation. DHS Components work collectively to prevent terrorism; secure borders and our transportation systems; protect the President and other dignitaries; enforce and administer immigration laws; safeguard cyberspace; and ensure resilience to disasters. We achieve these vital missions through a diverse workforce spanning hundreds of occupations. Make an impact; join DHS.

Conclusion

Again, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about the recruitment and retention of millennials in the Federal Government. DHS will continue to recruit top millennial talent as we recognize the mission need to incorporate the latest generational cohort into our workforce.

Last Published Date: November 4, 2019
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