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Capitol Hill Update

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Last week, SHRM’s efforts in establishing itself as a thought leader and advocate on human capital issues paid big dividends on Capitol Hill. On March 22, SHRM provided three witnesses to testify on important HR issues at two different hearings in both the House and Senate. 

In a hearing held by a subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee, Dr. Jeff T.H. Pon, SHRM’s new Chief Human Resources and Strategy Officer, presented testimony addressing the topic, “Building One Department of Homeland Security: Why is Employee Morale Low?”

Pon, a former chief human capital officer for the U.S. Department of Energy and an executive in private business, told members of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management that: “In both the private and public sectors, smart organizations — those that want to be successful, meet goals, and be an employer of choice — often come to the realization that they must make intrinsic change. They have to change the way they operate, and they must commit to improving the organization's root culture.”

In his remarks, Pon referenced SHRM’s 2011 Employee Satisfaction and Engagement Survey that showed employees want recognition of their contributions to an organization’s mission and a positive relationship with immediate supervisors. Employees rated pay and benefits lower on the list of job satisfiers.  To meet challenges faced by the agency, Pon outlined a process that “conveys messages of team, commonality of mission and fairness in the workplace” — forming a strong change team, creating a vision, communicating honestly, breaking down barriers and demonstrating progress.

He commended the federal government and its agencies for the strides they have made in creating flexible work settings. But, Pon noted, more can be done. “At SHRM, we believe that workplace flexibility is the next major strategic competitive advantage for all organizations and the way to engagement.”  He told the subcommittee: “With the right vision, a bold and tenacious commitment to change at every executive level, and with honest and open communication, DHS will be able to look over the horizon and foresee more changes. By re-imagining and re-designing the workplace and the workforce, it will be able to transform the present, and plan for the future.”

To view excerpts from the hearing and view all the witnesses’ testimonies, please click HERE.

On the other side of the Capitol, the U. S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), convened a hearing looking into private sector strategies for keeping employees with disabilities in the workplace or helping them return to the workforce. Two SHRM members, Christine Walters and Karen A. Amato, shared with the committee their experiences and effective practices for keeping employees with disabilities in the workplace and helping them return to the workforce.

Karen Amato, director of the integrated disability management, wellness and safety programs at SRA International Inc. in Fairfax, Va., emphasized in her testimony two successful strategies used by large employers: prevention and early action, including the use of wellness programs to enhance the overall health of employees and strategies such as having an onsite case manager, incentivizing work and employee engagement, and providing creative accommodation.

Christine Walters, owner of the HR consulting firm FiveL Co. in Westminster, Md., spoke about strategies useful to smaller employers including the value of flexible work arrangements, such as flex time and telework.  She also pointed out that complex and overlapping state and federal laws present a challenge to employers and suggested that Congress focus on incentives, recognition programs and other efforts, rather than mandates, to encourage employers to take proactive measures to recruit, hire and retain people with disabilities.

A video of the hearing, along with copies of witness testimony, is available on the HELP website.


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