President Obama last month ordered federal agencies to take action to improve the Senior Executive Service (SES).

Executive Order #13714 was issued to “to strengthen the recruitment, hiring, and development of the Federal Government's senior executives.”

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan, in an OMB blog said the action would “attract, develop and retain the best talent needed to continue moving the Federal Government forward in the 21st century.”

The administration is increasing attention on the SES workforce as it is estimated that 60 percent of SES personnel will be eligible to retire.

The action directed in the Executive Order emphasizes three areas: 1) Hiring the best talent; 2) Strengthening SES development; and 3) improving SES accountability, recognition and rewards.

To hire the best talent, agency leaders are directed to regularly track SES vacancies and recruiting efforts to ensure top management attention. OMB will evaluate agency SES selection materials and recommend changes to streamline the hiring process. Agencies will also put into place a talent and succession management process for SES, Senior Level (SL), and Senior Scientific or Professional (ST) employees.

To strengthen SES development efforts agencies are directed to prepare rotation plans based on agency needs and employee professional growth opportunities. A government-wide goal (not for each agency) is set to rotate 15 percent of SES employees for a minimum of 120 days during 2017. SES employees will be required to complete at least one professional activity each year and receive a leadership assessment every three years. The order requires each agency to prepare a formal “onboarding program” for new SES employees.

To improve SES accountability, recognition, and rewards, the administration will increase funding for agency performance rewards caps from 4.8 percent to 7.5 percent, which was the agency average in 2010 before OMB placed restrictions on rewards. OMB will provide guidance on how these rewards should be distributed and allocated. Initial pay rates for SES employees will be increased to ensure that they earn more than their General Schedule (GS) employees.

The Executive Order establishes a Subcommittee of the President's Management Council (PMC) to advise the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the president on implementation of the requirements in the Executive Order.

It also sets up a time line for implementation of these required actions. OPM will evaluate the the Qualification Review Board (QRB) process and issue guidance, within 90 days, to agencies on acceptable materials for QRB consideration. Within 120 days after this guidance is issued agency heads will examine their career SES hiring process and make changes to “make it more efficient, effective, and less burdensome for all participants.” By May 31, 2016 agencies with 20 or more SES positions will submit to OPM a 2-year plan to increase the number of rotating SES employees.

The department of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs will implement reforms by September 30, 2016. The departments of Agriculture, Education, Labor, and Transportation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Small Business Administration will implement these requirements by September 30, 2017. The departments of State Treasury, Interior, Commerce, and Homeland Security will implement these reforms by September 30, 2018.