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Crisis in Government Leadership

The future of career leadership in the federal government looks bleak, according to a survey of nearly 500 Senior Executive Service (SES) and Senior Professional (SP) federal employees.

That finding is among many in a report produced by the Senior Executives Association (SEA) entitled Recruiting Qualified Career Leadership: How Are We Doing? 

The report finds a growing concern among career leaders in government that the next generation of government leaders are not interested in in SES, SP, and equivalent positions, and those that do seek to raise to those ranks may not be prepared for the intense demands of career executive leadership.

The findings from the latest survey echo a survey of GS-14s and 15s conducted by SEA in 2009, Taking the Helm: Attracting the Next Generation of Federal Leaders, which found that the detractors to the SES often provided an insufficient counterbalance to the attractors, suggesting a pending crisis in attracting high caliber leadership to serve at the government’s highest career levels.

Six key findings were found in the latest study examining the recruitment climate for SES, SP, and equivalent positions:

  • Finding 1: It is getting more difficult and time consuming for agencies to fill vacancies with high quality candidates, while the overall quality of both internal and external applicants for SES and SP positions has decreased in recent years.
  • Finding 2: Current career senior managers and professionals are quite concerned about their agencies’ ability to fill SES and SP jobs with high quality candidates and believe a variety of factors including insufficient compensation, workforce politicization and Congressional threats, work and family balance concerns, complexity of the application process and other issues are contributing to recruitment difficulties.
  • Finding 3: Senior managers and professionals often encourage highly talented employees to apply for SES and SP positions; however, their encouragement is frequently met with mixed interest by potential candidates.
  • Finding 4: Most agencies are taking steps to prepare, encourage, and/or gauge the level of interest of high potential employees in SES and SP positions; however, agencies’ pipelines are not necessarily replete with high quality candidates.
  • Finding 5: To be successful, today’s senior executives and professionals need different types of skills, abilities and experiences than in the past.
  • Finding 6: Currently, attractors to serving in career SES and SP positions only somewhat outweigh detractors – and this situation presents both challenges and opportunities for the government’s executive resources management system.

The findings of the report are illuminated with comments provided by survey participants.

The report concludes with several recommendations for the Administration, Congress, OPM and federal agencies to consider, including:

  • Significantly improve financial, work-life, and other forms of support and recognition for career Senior Executives and Senior Professionals.
  • Aggressively design and implement effective succession planning, mentoring, executive exchange and other leadership development and outreach programs that will help encourage and prepare high potential candidates for future SES and SP vacancies.
  • Provide career Senior Executives and Senior Professionals with the resources needed to do their jobs and the authority, responsibility and accountability to do them right.
  • Provide timely and focused training on the new and emerging skills, abilities and experiences (e.g., collaboration, managing multi-generational, diverse workforces) needed by today’s SES and SP employees to be successful.
  • Show visible support and provide meaningful recognition for the accomplishments and value to the nation of career Senior Executives and Senior Professionals.
  • OPM and agencies should emphasize the positive aspects of serving in career SES and Senior Professional positions in order to help attract and recruit highly qualified candidates.
  • OPM and agencies should continue simplifying the job application process for career SES and SP positions while maintaining important safeguards against politicization and acceptance of under-qualified candidates.

Access the full report: Recruiting Qualified Career Leadership: How Are We Doing?

Posted in General News

Tags: FAA




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