By Lawrence Randolph
Nothing is more important than the health, safety, and well-being of the more than 76,000 people who make up the Department of State’s global workforce. The Department’s global mission imposes considerable demands, both physical and emotional, on employees and their families. Recognizing that a resilient workforce is critical to successfully accomplishing that mission, last fall, the Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao called for greater coordination and strengthening of programs and initiatives that foster resilience across the Department. TalentCare is the result of that call to action.
Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Global Talent (DG) Carol Z. Perez spearheaded this effort and is the chairperson for the TalentCare Council. The TalentCare Council supports and promotes the integration of the Department’s workforce resilience initiatives. It serves as a conduit and advisory board for the DG, the under secretaries, and the secretary, and is responsible for coordinating, aligning, and developing initiatives across the Department that address its diverse employees’ work and life needs. The council includes senior leaders representing the Bureaus of Global Talent Management, Medical Services, Diplomatic Security, and Administration, as well as the Ombudsman, the Office of Civil Rights, and the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), among others. The new TalentCare webpage, launched in June, serves as a single touchpoint for employees to easily access information on programs and policies that promote well-being, safety, family, and flexibility.
Last summer, when Bulatao asked the DG to lead the effort that would ultimately result in TalentCare, no one could have anticipated facing the COVID-19 pandemic or a global health crisis of this magnitude. Responding to the workforce and their families’ needs during the pandemic has made these programs and initiatives more vital than ever; employee resilience and wellness have long been a priority for the Department. The council came together and collaborated on what services and programs are available and informed the community about these resources in a way that made them more accessible.
Employees at home and abroad are already benefiting from TalentCare every day. The Department is taking steps to protect its people, mitigate risk, and support the workforce in times of distress. For example, demand for resilience services from FSI was greater than ever as thousands of diplomats returned stateside and thousands of other personnel worked from home or faced returning to the workplace with concern and uncertainty. In response, the small team at FSI’s Center of Excellence in Foreign Affairs Resilience quickly focused on developing and distributing resilience resources to the wider foreign affairs community and expanded offerings of on-demand resilience training and webinars to support the foreign affairs workforce at home and abroad.
The Bureau of Medical Services’ Employee Consultation Services (ECS) team is also now available 24/7 to provide support—especially to employees who might be having a difficult time during this period of anxiety and trepidation. ECS staff noted that employees may experience a wide range of feelings, including fear, anger, sadness, irritability, guilt, or confusion. They encourage all employees not to hesitate to use these counseling services or to point struggling colleagues to these professionals.
The launch of TalentCare is a beginning, but there is much more that the TalentCare Council is committed to doing. They plan to look at where there are gaps in resources and services and work together to find new ways to support the Department in fostering and strengthening individual and institutional resilience. TalentCare is not an initiative with an end date, but rather a way of doing the business that ensures that the Department’s people, its greatest asset, have the tools and resources they need to achieve the Department’s mission and to thrive personally and professionally.
“This is a team effort,” says Deputy Assistant Secretary Jeanne Juliao. “Leadership and institutional support is buttressed by individual and community efforts. We are a team and taking care of one another benefits us all.”
Lawrence Randolph is currently studying French at the Foreign Service Institute for his upcoming role as consul general at the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca. He was previously the TalentCare coordinator and senior advisor on resilience in the Bureau of Global Talent Management.