For federal employees, 2011 has been a year of repeated attempts to further undercut their compensation and reduce their number, not to mention the current two-year freeze on basic pay that goes through 2012. Perhaps that’s why Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry says “people always ask me: ‘Why the smile?’ ”

He explained in this year-end, self-congratulatory internal memo to the OPM staff:

My answer is two-fold. First, I am thankful for the countless blessings of a loving God, and second, I get to work with the most passionate, caring and committed people in the world – Federal employees – who every day make our nation better and brighter.

As 2011 draws to a close, here is my “Top 10” list of reasons to celebrate this holiday season:

10. We gathered detailed feedback from over a quarter-million Federal Employees in our Employee Viewpoint Survey – the most ever, both numerically and percentage-wise. (And the results showed that OPM is one of the best places to work!)

9. Hiring Reform is a success – over half of job descriptions are 5 pages or fewer, with 90% of the agencies using resumes, instead of KSAs [essays on the applicant’s knowledge, skills and abilities], and time to hire across the government has improved to 105 days. And, on top of all of that, we completely overhauled USAJOBS [OPM’s online jobs site], and despite a few stumbles along the way, got back up and running on the road to success.

8. We brought together labor and management at the national level to agree on a framework for performance management and accountability that’s already being adopted in six agencies.

7. Local wins! Many of us got fit or quit smoking with our first full year of our Wellness Works programs. We renovated and named the Big Stick Snack Bar, and we brought the OPM phone system into the 21st century. Working with our unions in Washington and Boyers we piloted and launched our mentorship program, and started work on our new Learning Centers. And we revived and revitalized the Director’s Awards with a new, open process, assuring that great employees can be recognized – no matter where they’re working, or on which project.

6. We simplified and clarified the pathways that bring students into government. These are changes that will become final next year, and will benefit Americans for years to come.

5. We opened OPM’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and wrote the government-wide plan to assure that the Federal government is as diverse and inclusive as the nation we serve.

4. We’ve made the CHCO [chief human capital officers] council the most effective working group in government, with clear goals and a track record of high productivity and accountability. As if meeting and beating goals in our day-to-day work wasn’t impressive enough, our Feds Feed Families food drive went above and beyond, bringing in three times the goal! That’s over 5.7 million pounds of food!

3. We continued to meet our background investigation deadlines, which got background investigations removed from the Government Accountability Office’s high-risk list – a truly monumental accomplishment.

2. We stood up a new health insurance system for people with pre-existing conditions in 24 states, in barely three months. And we laid the groundwork to bring Tribal employees into the Federal Employees Health Benefits systems for the first time.

1. Veterans employment, government-wide, is at the highest rates seen since we started keeping track. From 24% in 2009, we’ve increased Veterans employment steadily, to 25.6% in 2010 and 28.5% in 2011 – more than four percentage points better than when we started. And our hiring of disabled Veterans is on the rise as well – from 7% in 2009 to 8.2% last year and 9% in 2011. We’ve not only honored our Veterans’ service, we’ve kept their talents working for our nation for years to come.

As we look forward to 2012, we’ve got plenty still to do, from eliminating the backlog in retirement to meeting our goal to make people with severe disabilities 3% of our new hires; from implementing a new performance accountability system to standing up the multi-state healthcare exchanges by 2014.

But with a team like this one, I’m confident that we’ll find a way, or make a way. Thank you for all your dedication over this past year. Thank you for your service to our country. I hope that your holidays are filled with peace, happiness, good health and plenty of time with loved ones far and near!

With warmest wishes,

John Berry


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