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  4. Written testimony of MGMT for a House on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing titled “The Best and Worst Places to Work in Government”

Written testimony of MGMT Chief Human Capital Officer Angela Bailey for a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing titled “The Best and Worst Places to Work in Government”

Release Date: April 6, 2017

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. I joined DHS in 2016 as a career federal executive with nearly 36 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, executive resources, labor relations, diversity and inclusion, and strategic learning, development and engagement, as well as human resources operations for DHS Headquarters employees.

DHS is a large, complex organization. Each of our Components has its own mission, its own history, and its own culture. However, we all come together with one overarching vision: “With honor and integrity, we will safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values.”

Our employees keep our airplanes safe, help us recover from natural disasters, protect our President, secure federal facilities and their employees and visitors, deport criminals, counter violent extremism, combat cyber-crime, train law enforcement personnel from all across the globe, patrol our waters, and welcome new citizens to become part of our Nation.

Our employees are committed to doing excellent work every day. They deserve a Department that invests in their success so that they can support our mission. They deserve great leaders and they deserve excellent work environments.

Engagement was a top priority for the former Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Under Secretary for Management, and I believe this top leadership commitment was one of the driving forces behind the three percent increase we saw from 2015 to 2016 in our Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) Employee Engagement Index scores. Secretary Kelly has not missed a beat in setting employee engagement as one of his top priorities as well. Within two weeks of his confirmation, the Secretary was already out in the field visiting employees at their workplaces and conducting town hall meetings. During one of the first town hall events, Secretary Kelly told employees, “You do a tremendous job,” he told employees at one such event, “Keep doing what you’re doing…I will always have your back.”

Our Employee Engagement Steering Committee (EESC), chaired by the Under Secretary for Management, has continued to serve as a forum for sharing ideas and best practices, and for ensuring Component accountability. Members are updating their engagement action plans twice per year, and those plans are signed by Component leadership. Through this mechanism, we empowered Components to act and created a loop of accountability with them so that we know they are taking action, and we are assisting them in their efforts as needed. A few examples of some of the great work occurring in our Components include:

  • TSA does “Local Action Planning” at sites with lowest levels of employee satisfaction to identify root causes of challenges and solutions for local implementation. They send expert teams onsite to conduct focus groups, make recommendations, and guide groups through implementation of identified actions. FEVS ratings in those targeted locations improved an average of 24 percent from 2015 to 2016.
  • CBP redesigned its first- and second-line supervisor training curricula to enhance performance management. Some of the topics include how to guide employees in setting performance goals and providing feedback on performance to employees. In FY16, they also graduated 116 GS-15 senior leaders from the CBP Leadership Institute, which includes sessions on workplace climate, culture, building trust, and coaching skills.
  • USCIS strives to empower employees and local offices to help make the agency a better place to work by organizing local champions for engagement initiatives; seeking feedback from the workforce through brief pulse polls targeting salient issues; and facilitating action planning at the local level.
  • ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), which historically scores low on the FEVS, is undertaking a transformation effort called ERO 2.0. This effort includes a broad array of initiatives, including site-specific functional and operational adjustments within areas of responsibility; a new hiring plan that increases speed and quality of hiring; and creation of an effective mechanism for employees to search for and access critical ICE and ERO policies. The goal is to enable ERO to more effectively enforce current immigration policies, as well as identify avenues to improve the morale, career growth, and development of ERO’s workforce.
  • The Secret Service created an agency wide Inclusion and Engagement Council (IEC) to build, foster, create and inspire a workforce where inclusive diversity is not just “talked about” but demonstrated by every employee through “Every Action, Every Day.” The Secret Service identified an IEC Executive Champion and proactively enlisted the support of employees throughout the agency to serve as IEC Game Changers. Their primary objective is to help create and sustain a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility and fairness. The IEC’s collective goal is to focus their efforts on creating and fostering a more “inclusive and engaged” Secret Service workplace.
  • FLETC senior leadership is actively promoting transparency and engaging directly with staff. Last year, senior leaders attended and interacted with staff on at least 148 training activities, 95 program openings, and 97 program graduations.

When you look at the DHS results of the FEVS, it is important to take into account just how large and diverse we are. For example, looking through the lens of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government ranking (BPTW), which as you know uses FEVS data: the ranking of large agencies places DHS at the bottom, but some of the DHS Components are larger than the “large agencies” on the list.

  • USCIS is slightly smaller than the top-ranked NASA yet its index score is almost as high as NASA’s.
  • USCG, USCIS, and FLETC all have BPTW index scores above the second-ranked large agency, the Department of Commerce.
  • In the BPTW mission-area rankings, USCG and USCIS are ranked #1 and #2 for the Law Enforcement and Border Protection category.
  • Our lower-ranked Components, like the Secret Service, CBP, and TSA, all have extremely difficult jobs that place them squarely in the public eye, often under challenging circumstances. These Components also have populations with limited access to computers, making it difficult for these employees to complete the FEVS.

This is not an excuse, but it serves as context. We are focused on these high-need Components, and are working with them and our EESC to continue the upward trend that we started last year. Our EESC members and the internal communications community are sharing best practices on how they are reaching out to the field. We are using our communications channels, including messaging from the Secretary and leader alerts to supervisors and executives, to ensure leaders at all levels act as a force multiplier for us to reach the workforce throughout the year, and we are currently focusing on the 2017 FEVS administration, which begins next month.

Every day, the men and women of DHS carry out difficult and frequently 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. I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

Last Updated: 10/06/2022
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