History of GovConnect

More than a year ago, the Office of Personnel Management and the Environmental Protection Agency launched a new approach to providing federal employees help and support in exploring innovative projects that not only excite them, but also net rewards for their organizations.

GovConnect empowers employees who want to work on passion projects without compromising their regular workload. It boosts employee engagement by promoting opportunities to share knowledge and innovate by moving around a little within their agencies or across the government. The initiative is also believed to enhance federal recruitment and hiring.

“The program is part of President Barack Obama’s second-term management agenda, aimed at developing innovative models for improving workforce effectiveness. One of the four pillars outlined in the president’s agenda focuses on people and culture and implementing practices that boost federal recruitment, hiring and employee engagement,” FedTech reported in October 2014.

“Several successful initiatives provided early proof of a new collaborative model of workforce development: Open Opportunities (developed by GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies), the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Skills Marketplace, the White House’s Innovation Toolkit, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Innovation Time. Each of these efforts seek to tap the passion, energy, and ingenuity of federal employees and allow people to develop their professional skills by tackling problems that face federal agencies,” according to a blog post in September 2015 by 18F, which partnered with OPM on the initiative.

GovConnect is open, transparent, and actively engages different stakeholders throughout the process.

“Thanks to the success of these initiatives and the passion of our partners at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), GovConnect was born. GovConnect is an agile workforce initiative sponsored by OPM and co-led by EPA to encourage agencies to think differently about work, one that develops and connects the federal workforce, encourages innovation, and helps develop critical skills and build professional networks across the government to where and when they’re needed. GovConnect is a network of existing and new programs that seek to achieve this goal,” according to 18F.

Based on interviews with existing programs, the GovConnect team identified three agile workforce models:

  • GovProject — Employees develop expertise and professional skills on a part-time basis (for example, up to 20 percent time) as they work on projects posted by managers at their agency or within another federal agency. These are manager-initiated micro-projects.
  • GovStart — Employees initiate micro-projects after identifying a need and assembling part-time teams, developing a professional network.
  • GovCloud — Employees work for an agency or governmentwide on different projects on an as-needed basis. Employees work on one or more projects at the same time.

OPM, the White House Personnel Office, EPA, and 18F co-hosted a workshop in early September to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the next phase of development for GovConnect, or the experiences of individuals who’ve worked with an agile workforce program similar to the GovConnect pilots currently in place.

Early adopters have played a major role evangelizing best practices that are improving employee experience as they work for the federal government. Among the ways they have advanced the initiative is by contributing to the creation of a Starter Kit to help other agencies that want to launch GovConnect pilots.