On August 7th, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued final regulations to allow eligible Federal employees the ability to work 20 hours per week, while receiving half of their pay and half of their retirement annuity. Under the Federal Phased Retirement law, employees who take advantage of the new flexibility, will be required to “devote at least 20 percent of their work time, or about 8 hours a pay period, to mentoring other employees.” The employees who they mentor would ideally take over their jobs when they fully retire.
Phased retirement is a flexibility that has been given to agencies to assist them with knowledge management and succession planning. It is designed to provide opportunities for cross-training to employees taking over positions of their predessesor. The purpose of the law is to achieve continuity of operations as well as give retiring employees opportunities to share their experiences with other employees.
Although November 6th is the first day that Federal employees can begin phased retirement, specific guidance has not been given to agencies and employees to assist them with administrative and procedural matters that are not addressed in the law. Will agencies be ready by November 6th?
That’s just one of many questions that I have. Here are several other questions that I have regarding the mentoring component of the new law.
- How do we define mentoring? Is there a common definition of mentoring in the Federal government? To some agencies, mentoring is just sharing information informally to establish best practices. Other agencies use mentoring to provide development of technical occupations and competencies. Mentoring can be formal or informal. Is the intent of the law, formal or informal mentoring?
- How do you enforce the mentoring requirement? It may be difficult for someone who has worked in a position for a number of years to mentor someone else to do their job. Plans need to be in place to create a mentoring culture where open sharing of knowledge is expected. In some siloed organizations, the culture is to hold information close and not share your expertise. This type of culture may present additional challenges to actually implement and enforce the mentoring requirement.What happens when the new person in the position is not open to being mentored? Having a mentoring culture involves employees being open to learning from others and being mentored. It’s rarely effective to force mentoring upon someone. In the event the employee taking over the position of the person retiring is not willing to be be mentored, the mentoring relationship will not be effective.
- How do agencies prepare by November 6th? It can take between six to 12 months to create a comprehensive and sustainable mentoring program that is aligned with business goals. I am not sure if agencies have enough time to put a program in place or modify their existing one by November.Some agencies do not have corporate mentoring programs to help with the mentoring component. Those agencies that do, will need to modify existing programs to be able to accommodate a different target audience or create new programs altogether. Each agency may have specific goals for their mentoring programs that are different than succession planning.Since mentoring is a requirement to elect for phased retirement, how will workloads be adjusted to incorporate mentoring? Agencies need to prepare to adjust workloads to allot the designated time for mentoring which is 20 percent of their workload, in addition to the other HR processes that will need to be modified for phased retirement such as administration of pay, managing performance, administering leave, etc. Incorporating mentoring as a major duty is paradigm shift for most Federal employees. It’s difficult for managers to fit in their employee development, coaching, and mentoring responsibilities when it’s a major job duty. Now, we are expecting those who are regular employees in their field to now include mentoring as a job duty.
- Will assessing someone’s readiness to mentor be factored into the criteria for being eligible for phased retirement? Let’s face it, everyone is not cut out to be a mentor, nor is interested. Those who have mentored throughout their careers will elect this option because it is the perfect way to give back and ease into retirement. You may have other employees who elect for phased retirement because it is attractive to work part time and still enjoy some of your Federal benefits, but, are really not interested in mentoring anyone. I am interested in seeing how agencies determine who is a “good” candidate for phased retirement versus those who are not. My hope is that some consideration is given to employees’ readiness to mentor.
I am excited about the possibilities of the the Federal Phased Retirement option. This is a great start to changing the landscape of how mentoring is used within the Federal government. I am a huge proponent of creating learning environments where it is expected that everyone share knowledge and skills as well as learn from others. I think it should be a part of everyone’s job. My fear is the challenges that agencies may encounter without sufficient time to layout a viable strategy to make mentoring effective. I guess we will see in the months to come how things turn out.
In the meantime, here is a tool to help you navigate your way through developing a mentoring program. It is a start to help those who have not begun the mentoring-program-development journey to support this new law.
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