July 21, 2009 at 12:22 pm #76149
Article from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University
John Berry Brings Change to the Office of Personnel Management
At your office, the head of human resources sets hiring policies, monitors employee benefits, and attends to the other administrative and legal requirements of having a staff. As the new director for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, M. John Berry ’81 M.P.A. is literally the head of HR for the United States government, with two million civil servants (and two million pensioned retirees) under his watch. The veteran Beltway insider will oversee hiring and benefits, to be sure, but he has also launched an across-the-board reformation of what it means to work for Uncle Sam.
His innovations, he says, are designed “to ensure that the government has an effective workforce.” But his aggressive campaign is also motivated by a directive from the chief executive himself. “The president,” says Berry, “has asked me to make civil service cool again.”
When he called Berry to offer the OPM position, Obama recalled the call to arms offered by President John F. Kennedy at his inauguration, which resulted in a rush to enroll in government positions. “He said, I hope one of the legacy items that we can accomplish in this administration is to bring that same spark, that same energy, that passion and respect for civil service that President Kennedy inspired in that generation.”
Most recently the director of the National Zoo, Berry is known for implementing governmental policies that ensure a corporate caliber of management. To make the United States “the model employer in the country,” he has planned a three-tier approach — streamlining the recruitment process; increasing opportunities for war veterans; and improving the workplace with such private-sector initiatives as healthcare clinics, child care and elder care rooms, and even lactation rooms for new mothers.
“The president has asked me to make civil service cool again.”Berry’s long-term goal is an overhaul of Title V, the law that governs civil service employees in hiring, pay practices, and performance appraisal practices. The last time the laws were shaken up, he notes, was a half-century ago. “I’ve decided it’s time,” Berry says. “The stars are aligned.”
Even before he was confirmed in April, Berry created buzz in some Washington circles. Pundits speculated that Berry, a gay man, would lobby to provide benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees — a policy forbidden by the 1997 Defense of Marriage Act. As a member of the Interior Department in the late ’90s, Berry had instituted pioneering guidelines for handling discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Berry, however, sees the quest for same-sex benefits as merely part of a larger promise of equality for all federal employees. He says there is a host of personnel challenges that are relevant to various constituencies throughout the workforce.
“I will be looking actively at domestic-partner benefits and other things that might benefit lesbian and gay employees,” he says, “just like I will be looking into the veterans preference programs that will benefit re-employing the men and women who’ve served our country in Iraq.”
July 22, 2009 at 7:35 am #76151
What about more hiring of citizens from territorial areas (i.e. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, etc…)
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