Diversity Linked To Promotions/Buyouts

Tuesday - 8/23/2011, 2:00am EDT

Career federal managers — most of whom will still be on the job long after their political bosses have departed — have their work cut out for them. The issue:

How to improve diversity (increase the number and percentage of women, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities in government jobs) when the government is downsizing — and while its second largest (and most racially diverse) agency, the U.S. Postal Service is trying to slash its workforce. Also, while implementing a White House-ordered 5 percent spending cut and dealing with to-be-announced budget reductions that will be proposed by the bipartisan, Senate-House committee. It is due to make a batch of BRAC-like tough spending and program cuts around Thanksgiving. If the script is followed, Congress will deal with them on an up-or-down vote.

Last week the White House told agencies to give special emphasis to diversity in the workforce saying it is "one of the cornerstones of the merit-based civil service." OPM is supposed to come up with an overall government plan within 90 days (it has, in fact been working on it for some time) that will launch a four-year effort centered on hiring, training, promotion and retention. After OPM has announced the governmentwide strategic blueprint, agencies will have another 120 days to submit their own plans for improving diversity. OPM will likely include both overall numbers and percentages and also the status of women and minorities in higher-grade and professional jobs.

Before that the Office of Management and Budget directed federal agencies to cut spending and to redouble efforts to cut waste. The 19-page directive (M-11-31) was accompanied by a 19 page attachment.

So agencies are being told to cut costs, streamline activities and cut jobs at a time when they are also being told to step up diversity efforts.

The Clinton Administration faced a similar problem in the 1990s. The president decided to downsize government by 270,000-plus jobs. At that time they were afraid the downsizing would cut into or erase the diversity gains it had made by hiring a large percentage of women and minorities. Under federal layoff rules the last hired are the first fired, and military veterans have special job protection. The solution: Buyouts. Paying older, longer-service employees (many of them fire-proof because of their time in government and their veterans preference status) to quit or retire so that younger workers jobs would be protect. In that sense it worked. Buyouts (with some layoffs) became widespread in government. The flip side was that thousands of the once government jobs were outsourced to the private sector.

More than a dozen federal agencies — from the Postal Service to the Air Force to the Smithsonian Institution — have announced buyouts. More are almost certainly on the way as agencies look for ways to comply with the new emphasis on diversity.

Hispanics might turn out to be the big winners. Based on the percentage of Hispanics in the national labor force they are the most under-represented racial/ethnic group in the federal government. The only exception is the Justice Department which has a large number of Hispanic employees based near the Mexican border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Whether you are looking for more training, a promotion, a management bonus or a buyout you have a stake in how this complex process plays out.

It may be "solved" using some updated, old methods: In this case a combination of massive buyouts and creative accounting worthy of Washington and Wall Street.

Stay tuned.

To reach me, mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

The Automobile Association, or AA as it's known in the United Kingdom, is the British corollary of the American Automobile Association (or as we know it — AAA). The association now provides car insurance and roadside assistance, but when it was created in 1905, its sole purpose was help newfound motorists avoid speed traps.


Agencies 'on right track' in sustainability efforts
Federal employees may not be able to identify Executive Order 13514 by its inscrutable string of numbers. But they're likely familiar with its policy proposals and its nickname: the "green" memo that aimed to operationalize sustainability in the federal government's activities.

TSP returns: Holding steady v. moving around
Tom Trabucco, director of external affairs at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, explains the difference on the return of the investment for people who constantly changed compared to people who held steady.

Cools Jobs in Government: NIH's Top Chef
It's not just Jell-o and soup broth for patients at NIH. Watch the behind-the-scenes multimedia presentation of executive chef Robert Hedetniemi on the job.