By Bianca Blanchard
The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (DG) Carol Z. Perez has been visiting domestic offices and posts abroad to hear directly from employees. These conversations have both inspired and informed her innovation priorities, which focus on taking care of the Department of State’s people by fostering a culture of inclusion; enhancing workplace flexibilities for life, learning and productivity; and building the civil service for the future.
“We live in a complex and changing world. Change has always been with us but the pace has accelerated exponentially in recent decades. Successful organizations share one characteristic: They adapt. … [T]o deliver better results for the American people, the Department must do a better job of supporting its own personnel by empowering them, removing barriers and streamlining processes,” said Perez.
To discover, develop and support such innovations, Perez created the Workforce Innovation Unit (IU). The IU, which reports directly to the DG, empowers implementation of innovations throughout the Department’s workforce. Established in February 2019, their first step was to collaborate with Department employees by launching an Innovation Portal on OpenNet that provides insight into the DG’s top three priority areas and encourages all employees to submit their own workforce innovation ideas.
When the page went live, May 14, the IU team invited proposals for enhancing workplace flexibilities. Within 24 hours of the launch, employees around the world had submitted 144 proposals on a wide range of topics which affected every element of the Department workforce—civil service, Foreign Service, family members, locally-employed staff and contractors. After one week, employee proposal submissions had reached 215. IU plans to announce a new call for input from employees approximately every eight weeks, with each solicitation focusing on a different innovation priority; however, workforce proposal ideas on any topic are encouraged and welcome at any time.
The IU team invites employees to check for regular updates on the Innovation Portal to see what has been proposed, what is in progress and what has been completed—or better yet, subscribe to its listserv. By collaborating with Department employees and looking at workforce innovation ideas across a broad spectrum, IU and the rest of the HR Bureau are focused on developing solutions for today’s workforce challenges that will lead to a brighter future.
Bianca Blanchard is a program analyst in the Innovation Unit in the Office of the Director General.