President’s Perspective: The Path Forward to Improve SEC Morale


12/13/12: The SEC’s latest low score on the Partnership for Public Service “Best Places to Work” rankings, 19th out of 22 mid-sized agencies, is sobering news  – but as the agency transitions to new leadership I am hopeful that our senior leaders will bring the same focus to our internal challenges as they have brought to the many external challenges the SEC has faced since 2008. The time is now for the SEC’s senior leadership to make a full commitment to address the human capital challenges reflected by the SEC’s now perennially low ranking. The path forward is clear –the SEC’s senior leadership and the Union should together work to improve employee engagement, develop better ways to recognize the important contributions made by our employees, provide new opportunities for employee growth and advancement and ensure a true commitment to the work/life balance that is so important to recruiting and retaining highly skilled employees in the federal sector. If we jointly make this commitment, I believe we can change course. But the time to act is now.

The Need for Collaboration with the Union on Agency-wide Issues

One of our sister financial regulators, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("FDIC"), faced a similar challenge just a few short years ago. Back in 2007, the FDIC was ranked 21st on the "Best Places to Work" list. By 2011, the FDIC had risen to first place out of 33 agencies. Today, the FDIC is once again ranked first on the new mid-sized agency list.  The FDIC improved employee satisfaction by making a commitment to partner with its employee representatives to engage in meaningful collaboration on the full range of issues it faced, including compensation and performance management.

As an example, when it comes to the category "Pay," FDIC is out in front of everyone by a wide margin. There is a reason for this. FDIC senior management collaborated very closely with NTEU over many months to develop a new performance management system which is directly linked to employee pay -- and the parties continue to work closely together on revising and improving that system. In addition, the FDIC and NTEU reached a new agreement on compensation this year that boosted morale for both managers and non-managers alike. Management decided to treat the representatives of the frontline staff as an important stakeholder at the agency on these important issues and to really listen to them. That effort has paid big dividends.

We believe that SEC senior leadership needs to engage in a similar collaborative process with NTEU at our agency. The Union remains prepared to work together with SEC senior management to move forward on a number of national issues, including performance management, merit pay, compensation and remaining issues in the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

The Need for Collaboration with the Union on the Local Level

Collaboration with the employees’ representatives on important national issues like pay and the CBA is critical. But equally important will be a serious effort to collaborate locally over issues that affect SEC employee engagement and empowerment.

A couple of years ago, the SEC Labor Management Forum ("LMF") set up a series of local labor-management committees to identify ways to improve morale at the local level. The LMF and its local committees provide a ready vehicle for gaining employee input and addressing their concerns. Senior management at the SEC should fully commit to the LMF and provide it with the resources it needs to meet this challenge.

There are, in fact, a number of examples of successful local efforts at labor-management collaboration at the SEC, including within SFRO OCIE and BRO Enforcement -- and it shows in the higher FEVS rankings for those internal units. Similarly, Union officials are also encouraged by ongoing talks with management in both Enforcement and IM to establish joint labor-management processes to make necessary improvements within those divisions.

The success of these and other local efforts is no accident. Management and the Union have committed to the tough job of working together collaboratively to develop strong relationships in which engagement is frequent, informal and covers a wide range of issues facing employees.

The Union believes that this pattern should be replicated across the agency through the LMF. We remain ready for senior management to make a commitment to that process to move our agency forward, and we will continue to advocate for this approach.