Good governance depends on great leaders doing exceptional work.
The dedicated, mission-driven members of the Senior Executive Service are critical to the stability of our economy and the security of our nation. They ensure government continues to innovate so it can operate effectively and cater to the rapidly evolving needs of the American people.
Senior executives are responsible for leading the federal workforce and have a hand in developing and implementing nearly all the government’s policies and programs. Good governance depends on these 7,000 leaders doing their jobs well.
But ensuring the strength and stability of government’s executive leaders is challenging work, particularly in today’s federal environment where budget cuts, hiring freezes and massive retirements are always real possibilities. Our government leaders need to take immediate action to develop a pipeline of future SES members and ensure current executives have the support they need to excel in their roles.
We’re committed to the long-term health of the SES. That’s why our research demonstrates the need for a strong Senior Executive Service, articulates current challenges for executive leaders and identifies strategies to help SES members meet future needs. We also work with agencies to support individual SES members and help them do their jobs effectively.
Our data analysis, research and interviews with senior leaders across government revealed the need to focus SES enhancement efforts in four key areas:
Only about half of current GS-14 and 15 employees across government expressed interest in joining the Senior Executive Service or advancing into senior level, scientific or professional positions, according to a recent Vanderbilt University study.
To strengthen culture, recognition and prestige and, by extension, the SES, agencies could aspire to:
With the prospect of a looming retirement boom, agencies need to aggressively recruit and hire a diverse, highly qualified group of individuals. While the executive cadre in our federal government is more diverse than that of the private sector, the SES is less diverse than the group of federal employees they lead.
To improve how government recruits and hires senior executives, agencies could aspire to:
Effective performance management systems are designed to produce better agency outcomes and help agencies fulfill their missions. Yet uneven distribution of performance ratings indicate that the SES performance management system is implemented inconsistently across government. At one Cabinet-level agency, 92.4% of career senior executives received a Level 5 in fiscal 2014—the highest performance rating available—compared to just 19.3% at another. Performance ratings skew high across government in general, with 89.7% of career senior executives receiving a Level 4 or 5 rating in fiscal 2014.
To strengthen senior executive performance management, agencies could aspire to:
Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® data show that senior executives who have leadership development opportunities are more satisfied with and committed to their jobs. Yet too often senior executives fail to undertake the types of talent development proven to be most effective: on-the-job experiential learning or training directly applicable to their day-to-day work. A survey conducted in fiscal 2011 found that just 21% of career senior executives have participated in an action learning project, and only 18% have participated in a developmental assignment lasting longer than 30 days.
To ensure that senior executives are well-positioned to do their jobs effectively, agencies could aspire to:
This report, the third in a series by the Partnership and McKinsey & Company, builds on our research on Senior Executive Service mobility and talent pipelines to help stakeholders bolster the SES.Read More
This report, created by the Partnership and McKinsey & Company, includes four phases of a cohesive SES pipeline-development strategy and case studies of agencies who excel in their execution of one or more of these phases.Read More
The Partnership and the IBM Center for the Business of Government propose a framework to manage and harness the talent of top political and career executives in order to accelerate the achievement of presidential priorities.Read More