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February 19, 2015

Table of contents

Approval of January 15, 2015 minutes (5 minutes)

Unfinished Business from January 15, 2015 Meeting (100 minutes)

  • Status of Action Items
    • Meeting with OPM on FEVS – Kevin Mahoney [5 minutes]
    • Pay Equity Workgroup – Kevin Mahoney [5 minutes]
    • Phased Retirement Conference Call on 2/13/15 – Valerie Smith [5 minutes]
  • Shared Services – Ellen Herbst [30 minutes]
  • Next Generation Learning Management System – Ivonne Cunarro [15 minutes]
  • Federal Customer Service Awards Program – Kevin Mahoney [10 minutes]
  • Viability of retaining the Forum’s working groups – although this was discussed, there was no decision by the Forum on what existing groups should remain and which should be abolished. The existing working groups are: Innovation, Communication, Metrics, and Personnel Policy (which is supposed to be an experiment rather than a permanent working group) – Kevin Mahoney [30 minutes]
  • Status of Telework implementation plans in the Department – Frank Milman [5 minutes]
  • What should the Forum’s metric be for FY15 – Kevin Mahoney [10 minutes]
  • Department’s result of the FY14 FEVS – Kevin Mahoney [10 minutes]

Other Business (5 minutes)

CALL IN NUMBER 866-453-8771; PASS CODE 2785164

Meeting Minutes

February 19, 2015

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 48019, Washington, DC 20230

Meeting called by: Labor-Management Forum
Program Manager: Mr. Frank Milman
Attendees: On the Phone: Andy Baldus, Dan Sobien, Mitch McDonald, Pam Schwartz, and Vonda Bell. See sign-in sheet for participants around the room.

Minutes from the January 15, 2015 meeting of the Forum, handout on the Next Generation Learning Management System, Presentation on the Next Generation Learning Management System, Charter of the Department of Commerce Labor-Management Forum.

Type of meeting: Additional Meeting
Note Taker: Ms. Valerie Smith


Agenda Item: Approval of Minutes from January 15, 2015, Forum Meeting
Presenter: Mr. Howard Freidman

A motion was made to adopt minutes taken on January 15, 2015 was approved without any amendments.

Agenda item: Status of Action Items

Discussion: Meeting with OPM on the FEVS Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney

Kevin Mahoney has contacted the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to schedule a meeting between the Department of Commerce and OPM regarding the Department’s recommendations to improve the Federal Employee Viewpoint survey. OPM is putting a list of possible meeting dates and will provide those dates to Mr. Mahoney within the next couple of weeks. There was a discussion on who will attend the meeting; several non-Forum members from the U.S. Census Bureau (Census) (Ruth Ann Killion, Paul Beatty, as well as some others) were recommended. A Labor member will consult with others at Census to determine who else should attend. Mr. Mahoney will attend, and Ms. Ellen Herbst (if available), and probably the team who drafted the letter that was submitted to OPM. There was a recommendation for the team that will be attending the OPM meeting to meet first to discuss their strategy. 

Action item Person responsible Deadline

Meeting of Commerce FEVS team to discuss

Strategy before meeting with OPM

Kevin Mahoney  TBD

Discussion: Pay Equity Group
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney

Mr. Mahoney has reached out to Ruth Ann Killion at Census to discuss this project; however he has not been able to reach her. Laurie Schwede is willing to participate on the team, she just cannot commit to a co-lead role. This is an important issue for Labor and they will figure out internally who will be the Labor Co-chair of this workgroup. Laverne Byrd, Laurie Schwede, and Laura Kasper will participate on the team.

Discussion: Phased Retirement
Presenter: Ms. Valerie Smith

The Phased Retirement Workgroup held their first meeting on February 13, 2015, and has established weekly meetings. The team is recommending a maximum time period of phased retirement of 4 years, in one year increments. The group is expected to have a policy implemented by July 2015. There was a recommendation for the team to create a project plan with deliverables so that everyone knows where the group is with the project. Labor acknowledged that the working group went well and that it’s great that the group is motivated to get this done quickly and correctly. The group should also build any dependencies into the project plan, such as legal opinions. The team is recommending that there would be one Department plan and that individual bureaus will not be required to develop their individual policy, but they could supplement the Department policy to meet their needs. Labor is going to check with others in AFGE to see if anyone else has a policy ready.

Action item Person responsible Deadline
Obtaining consensus opinion from AFGE to see if any other agency has a phased retirement policy in the works. TBD TBD

Agenda item: Learning Management System
Presenter: Ms. Ivonne Cunarro

Ms. Cunarro presented on Department transitioning to a new learning management system. Hard copy of the presentation was provided to the Forum members.

Agenda item: Shared Services 
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney

Since this past fall, the human resources (HR) community has really focused on gathering a lot of data, and crunching numbers in regards to shared services opportunities. HR has identified its current state (processing, staffing, classification, etc.), and has segregated functions into buckets: what could go to shared services, what should not go to three shared services, and what is in the middle. Transactional work could be grouped together in a shared service, such as processing SF-52s, and training requests. Employee/Labor Relations do not lend themselves to shared services. HR has organized mostly everything at this point based on customer feedback, and is now fine tuning. HR will present the findings to the Department Management Committee (DMC) and will determine what the future state will be. HR has done a lot of good work on how it operates; noting the biggest pain point of their customers was staffing and recruiting. HR believes that by moving to shared services they can improve those areas. On March 2, the DMC will be briefed and HR will receive their level of interest and receive direction. 

HR has to determine what their model will look like; maybe there will be more self-service options that will be a form of shared service. There are not unlimited funds to be spent on this initiative. HR will have a better understanding of what it will look like in early summer. HR issued a Request for Information (RFI) at the end of January to find out who in the market place does this service. Ideas such as outsourcing some functions; and having different providers doing different things are being considered. Responses to the RFI are due this Friday. 

Labor was concerned that the Department was taking inherently governmental functions and giving them to a contractor. It was explained that no inherently governmental functions will be given to a contractor. Labor asked if there was going to be a loss of Government jobs and the response was that there wouldn’t be. Labor asked if the outcome would be that we would not need any additional jobs. It was explained that the Department has grown over the years and HR has not, it has actually declined. Labor asked if this was just at the Department level or at the bureau level. It was explained that the Department has 5 servicing HR offices that all perform the same basic functions, but they all do them slightly differently. For example, all 5 HR offices perform payroll processing. The Forum asked what they could do. It was determined that the Forum would receive an update on this initiative at some point in the future. It was asked about whether there would be loss of jobs/reclassification of jobs. This initiative was not centered on cost cutting or job cutting; it was to figure out how the Department could deliver services better. Labor said that from a pre-decisional basis, they could get involved sooner than later. Even though the focus is on better services, the Forum wondered if they should have a working group address this. It was recommended to wait until after the March 2nd DMC meeting for further participation from the Forum. There was concern that a small agency like EDA would not receive the same level of service as the larger bureaus. Labor asked if HR is looking at other Government agencies like NASA. There aren’t a lot of Federal agencies doing this, but that if Labor knew if there are other organizations out there that are successful with shared services, they would let HR know.

Discussion: President’s Customer Service Awards 
Presenter: Ms. Valerie Smith

There is a new Government-wide President’s Customer Service Award. It will consist of two types of awards: Individual Award and Initiative Award. Agencies have the discretion to design their own nomination and award processes that meet the intent of the President’s Customer Service Award. Agencies have the discretion to use an existing awards process, which many are doing. The Department has decided to use the current existing Gold and Silver Awards Program as the basis for this award since there is a customer service category within the Gold and Silver Award Program. The Gold Customer Service recipients will be further reviewed by the Board, which recommends the Gold/Silver recipients, against the President’s Customer Service criteria, and will make a recommendation to the Secretary. Labor asked what the criteria were for the Gold Customer Service Award and the President’s Customer Service Award. Ms. Smith stated that they both deal with customer service but could not describe the criteria for the two types of awards exactly and that she would send the criteria for both awards to the Forum members. A question was asked about the timing of the award. It was explained that agencies must submit two award recipients to nominate for the President’s Customer Service Award by July 31, 2015. This should include one individual and one initiative award, although agencies have the discretion based on the merit of the specific cases. This time period works with the current Gold Award nomination process, as the Board will submit recommendations to the Secretary for the Gold/Silver in May. The President’s Customer Service Award nominations will be considered by a review panel selected by the Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Goal Leaders who will review the nominations and recommend a limited number of President’s Awards by August 2015. The White House will receive the panel recommendations and select and announce the recipients around October 2015. There will be approximately 10 recipients selected annually, though the actual number will depend on the quality of the nominees.

Action Items Person responsible Deadline
Send the Gold/Silver Award Criteria and the President’s Customer Service Award criteria to the Forum members. Valerie Smith ASAP

Discussion: Working Groups
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney

The current working groups such as Phased Retirement and other specific groups that have been organized in the past work well. The idea that the current designated groups may not be needed was presented for discussion. Labor thought it was important to keep these groups and focus on what is being done, rather than the actual title of the groups. The groups serve as having institutional knowledge and Labor thinks it’s viable and important to keep them. There was discussion on if we keep them, who has responsibility to have projects to work on the leads, or when a subject comes up, it is assigned to a group? Labor recommended that we should keep the groups as is, and assign projects to them when projects come up. We don’t have to shoehorn things in them to keep it going. The group discussed if we had members in all groups, and it was communicated that there are vacancies in every group. It was asked if the pay equity project be assigned to a group. In addition to the individuals participating in phased retirement and pay equity, the Co-Chairs of the respective working group should participate in meetings because they might be missing information. The acting Labor Co-Chair recommended that all members of the working groups have an opportunity to participate on the conference calls with the Co-chairs of the working groups.

Discussion: Telework Update 
Presenter: Mr. Frank Milman

The Department of Commerce plan has been implemented, and the Office of Human Resources Management has reviewed and approved six plans. EDA’s plan is only for non-bargaining unit employees. We have a NOAA plan for non-bargaining unit employees that we’re in the process of reviewing and providing comments to NOAA; and Census has an extension until the end of March for everyone (bargaining/non-bargaining). Labor asked how the Department plan differed from the NOAA plan. A question regarding the negotiating process was asked. When EDA was negotiating an MOU for telework in 2012 management said that OGC had to review the proposal. Mr. Milman explained that he held a teleconference call with the telework coordinators and explained that OGC was not responsible for approving telework policies, and further explained that during the negotiation process, OGC has no formal part of the review process, but once an agreement is executed, the MOU must be submitted for Agency Head review. Labor expressed that this does not help the process, because the last time management did not consult with OGC during the process, many things changed after OGC reviewed. Management and labor agreed to something that was not approved during the Agency Head Review process. Labor recommended that at the end of the telework negotiation process, we should survey the bureaus and find out how the process worked this time. Labor stated that the same type of situation happened with the telework working group. The group was working collectively and making decisions and then the policy would constantly change outside of the group. This needs to work better; it comes down to pre-decisional involvement and trust. Obviously when it comes to Agency Head review that is an age old issue. When USPTO worked on their telework policy, they worked with OGC along the way, so there were no surprises. Members from the telework working group stated that an entire paragraph of the policy was left off the final product, and language changed to reflect, “strongly recommend pre-decisional involvement” instead of “required pre-decisional involvement”. NOAA representative will find out if their deadline for review of March 2 could be extended. Labor stated that the version that was sent for national Consultation rights was different than the final version, and that it went against the Forum Charter. Labor asked that if we take another look at the Department telework policy if that would extend the due date of the end of March for Census. The decision was to first find out what happened to the paragraph and language first, and then we’ll determine how to proceed.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Send the language in question to Mr. Milman for review Laurie Schwede ASAP

Discussion: Forum Metric for Fiscal Year 2015
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney

Last year the metric was the Department getting to number one, and that during the last meeting, we decided to change the metric. Frank Milman reached out to other agencies and found out that HUD is not conducting Forum meetings at all. Agencies tend to not have an iron clad metric because they are so diverse in their mission, like the Department, that it’s difficult to have a Department-wide metric. One Department said that their metric was to hold a Forum meeting and that was their metric/goal. It’s the tradeoff of a Department goal and bureau goal. Labor asked when we needed to submit what or goal is. It was explained that we submit to OPM on the Department Forum and bureau activity by the end of September, so we don’t have to submit anything until the end of FY 15. Labor said they had a spirited discussion this morning. One metric should be something to do with employee engagement; it doesn’t have to be the EVS, especially since Ellen is the Department POC for employee engagement. Another possible metric, although we can’t solve everything quickly. It is very important that we have a local labor forum council at the weather service. We are in violation of not local councils at each level of recognition. We need to get that up and running and figure out how that is going to work. Kevin said Ellen is very supportive of this and as is he. Kevin recommended that this be a metric and Howard and David Solano agreed. There are areas that are not working well locally. Managers just will not work with weather service representative and have not spoken to her since October. They have some relationship with weather service, but no relationship with NOAA. Kevin reiterated that he is willing to help with this, and reiterated we should make this a metric. Another metric Labor discussed in the morning that would be helpful with better communication is to put the minutes out to all employees. If we are uncomfortable with sending all of the minutes out we could at least put out something. One other metric could be to establish a phased retirement policy.