In this special two-part interview, Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon discusses modernizing the federal workforce, elevating the role of the CHCO at agencies and using OPM authorities to effect change.
The Office of Personnel Management is aiming to modernize the process by which workers enter the federal market and how they are managed once inside. Spearheading this initiative is OPM Director Jeff Pon. Almost three months into his tenure as agency head, Pon told Government Matters that one of his top priorities is improving how agencies manage their human capital. “Human resources as a whole have been going through a complete transformation. We are moving away from transactional administration, we’re making sure that we’re using shared services for a lot of our HR technology, and we’re trying to make sure that there’s more decision‑making and analytics to make better decisions,” said Pon. Pon said in a statement to the House Oversight Committee last month that the federal workforce’s makeup hasn’t changed greatly in the last 30 to 40 years, and that OPM is trying to quickly change that. “What we are trying to do right now is take a fresh look at modernizing things, not reforming things… it is not as though these things don’t work. It’s just that the federal workforce and technology and teams have been such an integral part of the change that we are seeing across the private sector and public sector,” Pon told Government Matters. “We are looking at the rules that are associated with hiring, developing, and the total compensation package and seeing whether or not it is actually attractive to a person entering the federal government.” Pon says that he’s looking to use any tool he can find to jumpstart the modernization process, including OPM director authority. “It is hard to change a lot of things in this town, but I will tell you that the worst thing I can do is not ask. So, we are going to take a look at legislation. We are going to work with the president’s team on executive orders. We’re looking at OPM director authorities… [which] OPM hasn’t used for a long, long time, such as specialty pay authority,” Pon said. “We’re taking a look at the different types of changes at each agency. For instance, The NDAA things and also DHS’s authorities, and we are making sure that we can press on all four of those things. Some people have criticized me and saying ‘Boy, that’s a lot of things that you’re trying to do.’ But, there needs to be a lot of change for a little change to be successful. We are going to be leading, we’re not going to be following, we are going to be authors, not editors.”