Bonosaro hints Senior Executive Service might be in trouble

Wednesday - 1/6/2010, 8:00pm EST

Carol Bonosaro

Click to hear the interview

Download mp3

By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio

Is the Senior Executive Service in trouble?

The Senior Executives Association (SEA) conducted a survey of GS-14 and 15 feds last summer.

The results of that questionnaire are expected to be released at the end of this month, and should give SES members an idea of what attracts feds to service and what doesn't.

Carol Bonosaro is the President of the SEA and gave Federal News Radio some preliminary information about the survey results.

She said there is currently a list of items she hopes will be addressed.

"In no particular order, one of them is onboarding. That is to say, once you become a senior executive, what next? What is the support system that will help you make the transition to becoming a successful and effective executive? Another development that we're watching right now is a number of agencies and departments, not the least of which is DoD and [ODNI], are requiring that there be multi-agency experience, or experience that indicates the ability to collaborate, cooperate across agency lines. That says something different about [needed] preparation."

Bonasaro said the SEA is most importantly concerned about the next generation of executives, "Whether in fact [they] will be sufficiently motivated to want to move into the Senior Executive Service."

The survey asked about attractors and detractors when it comes to being a member of the SES, and Bonasaro said, so far she and others at the SEA are concerned.

"We know right now that there are plenty of detractors. If you look at an SES job and say, 'Gee, do I want to be available 24/7, have more responsibility, no locality pay, no annual cost of living adjustments, [have] all my pay based on performance -- is that appealing to me?' We know that there are issues that are much more important to the next generation around work-life balance."

The work-life balance issue is a big one, and Bonasaro said the SEA is already trying to figure out how else to attract feds to the SES, because it is unlikely that the job description of a senior executive will change anytime soon, "What will it take, nonetheless, to appeal to the most qualified, talented people to overcome that?"

The SEA is currently finishing up its analysis of the survey data, and Bonasaro said new questions, as well as answers, have already come up.

"Inevitably, when you get to the end of a project like this you look back and say, 'Gosh darn it, there was another question that we wanted to ask' -- and, probably, [it would be]: Given all of your views about the SES, what would make the difference to overcome the detractors?"

Though that question didn't make it, many others did. Along with answers to those questions, Bonasaro said the SEA got over 4,000 detailed comments about a variety of issues, which is part of the reason it's taken so long to publish the results.

She added that, while it was a lot of work, she and others at the SEA found the comments encouraging because people cared enough to share their thoughts about the SES at great length.

"We're trying to do a good job. Obviously . . . we're not going to pretend it was a random sample because there is no mailing list, so to speak, of 14's and 15's, but I think anytime you get about 11,000 or 12,000 people responding, it's important to pay attention and it gives us a starting point to have a more grounded discussion."

Bonasaro anticipates the study results will be released by the end of January.