Opening photo: Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Global Talent Carol Z. Perez (seventh from left) attends the Locally Employed (LE) Staff Regional Workshop at Embassy Colombia, Aug. 22, 2019. Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Global Talent Management
By Anne Eisenhower Turnbull
The Locally Employed Staff Advocacy Council (LESAC) is a Department of State initiative created in response to a groundswell of voices from the field. Locally employed (LE) staff are the backbone of the Department’s missions overseas. They provide local knowledge as well as subject matter expertise that enable the Department to carry out its goal of supporting American citizens and advancing American foreign policy overseas.
To better “take care of our people,” the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM) continues to look at new ways to modernize communication within the workforce. One of these efforts directly supports improving transparency and communication between the 56,000 LE staff colleagues worldwide and Department leadership based in Washington. It was this vision that gave rise to LESAC.
LESAC is comprised of 12 peer-elected LE staff members representing the six regional bureaus—each representative will serve for a three-year term.
Launched in December 2020 with an inaugural meeting hosted by then-Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Global Talent Carol Z. Perez, the initial LESAC discussion centered around LE staff career development, diversity and inclusion, and the verification of the council’s charter, which set a long-term agenda for their efforts.
Since that meeting, LESAC has met with offices in GTM as well as the Office of Civil Rights to develop a better understanding of how the Department works, what current policies are in place. The constraints involved in adjusting and improving current policies that affect LE staff.
LESAC convened their second meeting, May 25, to discuss important and relevant topics for the workforce: communication, professional development, workplace flexibilities, local compensation plan transparency, GTM’s TalentCare, and diversity and inclusion.
“While diversity is a source of strength and vibrancy, it need not be a source of division,” said Bureau of African Affairs LESAC representative Olawale Samuel, who serves in Nigeria as a USAID education program manager. “LESAC will continue to strengthen unity across the diverse background of LE staff worldwide, across all hiring mechanisms, as we continue to make our voices heard in Washington.”
LESAC works closely with other LE staff associations in their regions so that information from Washington can be shared broadly. Through LESAC’s work, they support Department leadership and missions overseas by increasing LE staff awareness of relevant issues. Using their unique roles as interlocutors, LESAC members can share relevant issues with LE staff worldwide—such as career development—and present the issues and ideas to Washington leaders. This not only gives a voice to LE staff, it will also improve their careers for years to come.
In addition, LESAC has taken on the important goal of better understanding the complexities behind the Local Compensation Plan—which defines the unique compensation requirements for Foreign Service nationals in each country. It is essential that every employee understands their compensation and benefits package, and LESAC can help with this process so that every LE staff member knows a local resource for questions and support. By working together and advocating for LE staff colleagues, the hope is to achieve transparency and mutual understanding.
LESAC will continue to strengthen unity across the diverse background of LE staff across all hiring mechanisms and continue to make the voices of LE staff heard in Washington. Email the LESAC distribution list to learn more.
Anne Eisenhower Turnbull is a public affairs officer in the Office of Overseas Employment.