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January 21, 2015

Table of contents
Meeting Minutes

January 21, 2015

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 6029, Washington, DC 20230

Meeting called by: Labor-Management Forum
Program Manager: Mr. Frank Milman
Attendees: On the Phone: ??? See sign-in sheet for participants around the room

Minutes from the October 15, 2014 meeting of the Forum, Bureau and Forum Metrics for FY14, National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations Metric Guidance, Management Forum Members Contact List, Next Generation Learning Management System Flyer.

Type of meeting: Quarterly Meeting
Note Taker: Ms. Mary O’Connor


Agenda Item: Approval of Minutes from October 15, 2104 Forum Meeting 
Presenter: Ms. Ellen Herbst

A motion was made to adopt minutes taken on October 15, 2014 was approved without any amendments.

Agenda Item: Efforts to Reach Goal of Department Being #1 Best Place to Work
Presenter: Ms. Ellen Herbst

Being “#1 Best Place to Work” is symbolic of employee engagement. The Department uses this achievement as a goal but the ranking is simply the outcome of the work that is done. The Secretary has directed Departmental leadership to make it a priority to develop employee engagement action plans if they don’t have them already. The goal is to go beyond the typical Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) scores and understand how to gain a true commitment on how the Department can make employee engagement a priority, and demonstrate this through action. 

The Department had employee engagement as a priority prior to recently being asked by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do so under OPM Memorandum M-15-04 of December 23, 2014 “Strengthening Employee Engagement and Organizational Performance.” The management Co-chair, currently CFO Ellen Herbst, has been designated as the Senior Accountable Official for the Department on Employee Engagement, and is currently trying to establish the role of that position. The Secretary has weighed in on this issue with direction in order to ensure that every leader of bureaus and operating units are involved. The heads of each bureau are responsible for managing their teams, as they will each have different needs and challenges based on the size and nature of their workforces. The Secretary has made “people” a priority amongst bureau and Departmental leadership, and has regular check-ins with leadership to ensure that goals are being met. It was suggested that goals related to employee engagement are of high priority. 

The management Co-chair stated she would welcome participation on this initiative from the Forum if the Forum chooses to do so. There was a discussion of the approach of participation from the Forum, and if it should be more general rather than bureau specific. A member highlighted the decision to take advantage of the success and resources within USPTO, and the importance of resources and research. Another suggestion was to seek greater involvement through the tool that is being developed for the Department for employee engagement that was discussed at the last Forum meeting.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Howard Friedman volunteered his involvement in initiative Howard Friedman TBD

Agenda item: Future Direction of the Labor Management Forum: Improving the Process
Presenter: All


It was stated that having a process person for the Forum that everyone could go to, and would keep tasks on track, would help with the effectiveness of the Forum. A member suggested that someone from USPTO could be detailed into this role; management noted that USPTO has been very generous with sharing particulars, stories, and resources that USPTO could be a multiplier for change. 

It was decided that a draft of the meeting minutes would be circulated within 2 weeks of the Forum meeting, so that everyone in the group could provide feedback. Additionally, 60 days prior to the next Forum meeting, a call for possible agenda items would be sent to all Forum members. Anyone having suggestions for agenda items is to send them to Frank Milman. The current charter will also be distributed with the draft meeting minutes for all to review and revisit. Management noted that this greater participation and collaboration would strengthen the partnership of the Forum. 

It was added that the nature of the working groups could be modified for greater progress, and that the Forum tended to work best when specific projects and teams worked and met on these projects on a regular basis. It was observed that a major part of the group’s discussion occurs in anticipation of upcoming events and policy implementation such as phased retirement, pay equity, the EVS. It was again noted that a process person could keep the group and teams on track with such topics to match resources and interests to people to projects with engagement and accountability. There was an agreement that aligning people and topics they are most passionate about will not only lead to greater progress as a group but could help move forward a definition of employee engagement. It was suggested that having a “decision maker” on each team would allow for greater effectiveness overall. It was also suggested that some subjects may work best with a standing team, such as “communication,” and that maybe a mix of topical teams and standing teams may work well for the Forum. 

Through the discussion of teams, topics, and engagement came the idea of having a “master action plan” for the Forum. It was noted that a process person could use the plan as a tool to help decide who is on each working group, or project, and set dates of when people were to meet and the outcomes to be achieved. It was also stated that the many thousands of people represented by the Forum deserved to have an improved process in place. 

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Draft minutes and charter to be sent out to entire group Frank Milman February 4, 2015
Call to Forum members for agenda topic ideas and send copy of charter to all members Frank Milman February 27, 2015

Agenda item: Pay Equity
Presenter: All

When discussing pay equity, it was suggested that the outcome of the group should be used in the 2015 metrics to the National Council on Federal Labor-Management. A prominent topic of the discussion of potential pay inequity would be to look at whether or not an unconscious bias was occurring in the Department; some areas to explore ranged from superior qualifications, hiring ladders, location of employment and availability of childcare, among others. The Forum wants to be able to analyze any patterns occurring that demonstrate any unconscious biases or inequity in pay. There was a suggestion to partner with the Diversity and Inclusion Council on this subject, and to also explore current resources, such as studies performed by OPM and other agencies. 

Aside from the strategy of analyzing the data, the Forum discussed the sphere of influence it could have with its research on this topic. The idea of having a process person keep this potential team on track was discussed. 

Laurie Schwede was nominated, but declined a position to co-chair the pay equity group. She suggested Ruth Ann Killion, the Chief of the Census Bureau Demographic Statistical Method Division. Kevin Mahoney is a co-chair of the group. He and the other co-chair (once selected) are tasked with directing the pay equality group. The progress of this group will be included in the next agenda.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Theodore LeCompte to provide research link to Kevin Mahoney Theodore LeCompte ASAP
Kevin Mahoney to provide a progress update at next Forum meeting Kevin Mahoney April 15, 2015

Agenda item: Master Action Plan
Presenter: All

Howard Friedman wants to come up with a master action plan for the group with Kevin Mahoney, Ellen Herbst, and whoever else would like to participate. A master plan would embody everything from engagement, goals of the group, what can be accomplished, and what support was needed.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Creating a "Master Action Plan" TBD TBD

Agenda item: Union Participation Time
Presenter: Laurie Schwede

A member raised a concern of fairness of the fact that time spent working on Forum matters is not taken into consideration as part of the performance evaluation process. It was noted that it would take an act of Congress to change this statute.

Agenda item: Other Business
Presenter: All

The mandate for the implementation of 240 hours of advanced sick leave for having or adopting a child was brought up; the Department currently has the ability to advance up to 30 days of sick leave, but there are still other aspects of this to be worked out. 

The Department will offer phased retirement; however, the policy needs to be written keeping Departmental and bureau needs in mind. Some areas to consider when coming up with a policy are budget impact and defining time spent mentoring. It was noted since there are not a lot of examples on phased retirement; it would be a new opportunity for the Department to explore ideas when creating the policy. The National Finance Center (NFC) should have their system coded by March. There should be preparation to present to the Department Management Council (DMC) and Principle Human Resources Officers (PHRMs) on the Department’s approach to phased retirement, and a message must be communicated to explain the approach to all employees. It was suggested that using succession and fundamental workforce planning could be used as a foundation for the policy. A work group was established for this area and will include Andy Baldus, Kevin Mahoney, Laurie Schwede, Mitch Macdonald, and Dave Reip. 

The idea of meeting more often as a group was discussed. It was noted that when an irregular meeting is needed, such as in the case to cover the agenda items of this meeting not addressed, it may be best to have one; however, meeting for the sake of having extra meetings may not be the most effective use of time for the group. The idea of having staff working on projects to present in between meetings was also mentioned in order to create greater effectiveness. Additionally, the need for a “group manager” to coordinate additional meetings was voiced. It was decided that the group would have an additional meeting in a month, if at least by phone, to address agenda items not discussed, amongst other relevant topics that may occur. 

A member inquired as to the status of a meeting with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to discuss the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) methodology and the concerns raised by the Forum. A representative of the Forum will contact OPM to see if a meeting can be arranged.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Follow up meeting Frank Milman February 19, 2015
Creating a “Master Action Plan” TBD TBD
Contact OPM about meeting on concerns with methodology Used for FEVS Kevin Mahoney TBD