The Homeland Security Department (DHS) ranked last among large agencies on the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government list for five consecutive years.
The situation inspired legislation designed to address the root causes of employee dissatisfaction and pivot the department to a more constructive future. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) introduced the Department of Homeland Security Morale, Recognition, Learning, and Engagement Act (DHS MORALE Act) in February 2019 to that end.
The bill aims to amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 “to improve morale within the Department of Homeland Security workforce by conferring new responsibilities to the Chief Human Capital Officer, establishing an employee engagement steering committee, requiring action plans, and authorizing an annual employee award program, and for other purposes.”
DHS’ 240,000 employees would benefit from leadership development opportunities, greater attention to the factors that affect their engagement and recognition of their contributions.
The DHS MORALE Act would specifically:
- Give the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) the responsibility of developing a career path framework and result in leadership development opportunities that are created from assessments of the needs of employees in supervisor and non-supervisor capacities.
- Instruct the CHCO to regularly update a catalog of employee development opportunities, like the DHS Rotational Program.
- Create an Employee Engagement Steering Committee with representatives from DHS and employee labor organizations to better monitor factors that affect employee engagement and morale and offer guidance to the Secretary on how to improve those areas.
- Necessitate an Employee Engagement Action Plan from the Secretary, reflecting discussions of the Steering Committee, that would be distributed to the entire department.
- Give the Secretary permission to establish an Annual Employee Award Program to honor employees who have gone above and beyond with contributions to the department.
The act has been endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) and the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC).
DHS’s CHCO, Angela Bailey, spoke at the American Society for Public Administration’s (ASPA) 2019 conference on March 11 about leadership development initiatives that the agency has implemented:
“What we’ve decided to do is create a leadership development framework that’s generic enough that the different cultures within our different components have the ability to tailor it to what makes sense to them.”
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