Berry Vision: Aligning the Stars

by
John Berry, OPM Director

John Berry, OPM Director

Yesterday, John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, made a long-anticipated speech at the Excellence in Government conference outlining his vision for public service in the next few years. It didn’t get as specific as an earlier interview he’d given a few weeks ago to Government Executive’s Alyssa Rosenberg, but he did a good job of raising the bar.  Rosenberg not only did a story on his recent speech, but also made the transcript available, and it is excerpted below:

I’ve never been more excited and optimistic about the opportunity for genuine, wholesale, systemic reform in the way we recruit and motivate the Federal workforce. . . .

We all need to showcase these professionals to the American people and make the case: Federal employees deserve respect. . . . .

We have, by and large, the best workers in the world, but we do not have the systems or policies we need to support them. We need comprehensive reform, from recruitment and hiring to pay and training. And, we must expect the best from every employee and fairly appraise their performance to guarantee to the public that America is getting what she deserves – the best. . . . .

Now is the time we must recruit and hire the best; expect the best; respect their successes, and honor their service.

To achieve this, we are going to fix hiring and recruitment so that it is fair, simple and fast, and only based on merit. We are going to improve work-life balance and treat our employees with respect – by enhancing their health and environment and helping them manage their family and loved ones’ demands as best we can.

We are going to honor our veterans and increase their employment opportunities in our domestic agencies.

And we’re going to develop a performance appraisal system that gives substantial rewards to our very best workers, recognizes the good work of the vast majority of our employees, and disciplines and removes the few bad apples who have been given the chance to improve but have either failed or refused to do so. . . . .

Together, these elements form a complete refresh of the Federal government’s people policy. We are not developing these policies in secret; I am talking to everyone I can think of who might have ideas on how we can improve – workers and managers, unions and academics, Members of Congress and agency heads. 

The stars are aligned. We have a President in Barack Obama who gets it; who understands the value of service and isn’t in the practice of throwing around “bureaucrat” as a slur towards our workers. We have allies in leadership in both the House and Senate and Committee Leaders who are ready to help.

This is a once-in-a-generation chance to ask the big questions, and if we do this right, we’ll have a people policy that can last us the rest of the century. So I’m encouraging all of you and all of our partners to think about the big picture.

We’ll be doing just that in September-October, when Harvard is hosting a conference for us, chaired by the Dean of the Kennedy School, former Senator Paul Sarbanes, and Laszlo Bock, the head of people programs for Google.

The stars may not align like this again. So we need to have our plans ready this year.

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