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Meeting of October 23, 2008 – Issues Facing Hispanics in the Federal Workplace

Statement of Felicita Sola-Carter, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Human Resources, U.S. Social Security Administration

Chair Earp, Commissioners, Colleagues, Panelists, Fellow Federal Employees and Members of the Public

Thank you for inviting me to address the EEOC on issues facing Hispanics in the Federal workplace. It is an honor for me to appear today to present Best Practices at the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The SSA is an independent agency that administers Social Security, a social insurance program consisting of retirement, disability, and survivors' benefits and the Supplemental Security Income program which provides financial support to individuals with limited income and resources who are aged, blind or disabled. SSA is headed by a Commissioner with a staff of approximately 60,000 permanent employees within a central organizational structure of 13 major components. We deliver services through a nationwide network of over 1,400 offices that include regional offices, field offices, card centers, teleservice centers, processing centers, hearing offices, and the Appeals Council. We also have a presence in U.S. embassies around the globe.

Our mission: "Deliver Social Security services that meet the changing needs of the public". Not only is SSA highly committed to its mission and values; for the public, we are the “face of the government.” The rich diversity of our employees mirrors the public we serve. In order to fulfill our mission and provide the kind of service the public expects and deserves, it is imperative that we understand the public’s needs. Achieving this goal has been and continues to be integral to how we do business every day and is an important part of SSA’s service principles and culture.

Our service principle: We serve with empathy, creativity, integrity and “an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand” by following these service principles:

  • Adherence to the law
  • Clarity
  • Commitment to best demonstrated practices
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Honesty
  • Prevention of waste, fraud, and abuse
  • Protection of privacy and personal information
  • Recruitment and training of the best public servants
  • Safety of the public and our employees

Having a highly qualified and diverse workforce is essential to the agency meeting its primary mission of providing quality service to an increasingly diverse public. Also, a diverse workforce that reflects the demographics of the public we serve increases the public’s confidence in the agency’s ability to meet its needs and enhances the agency’s capability to conduct business in the most effective and efficient manner. Employees who mirror the public we serve can literally and figuratively speak their language. A diverse workforce at all levels of the organization results in better policy formulation, deployment of resources, and succession planning.

SSA has been successful in establishing and maintaining a diverse workforce.

We attribute our success to several factors:

  • Support from the highest levels of the agency;
  • Strong linkage to the agency’s strategic plan;
  • Development of a long-term service vision;
  • Analysis and study of potential future losses;
  • A specific workforce transition plan; and
  • National and regional leadership development programs.

SSA also uses proactive tools to improve diversity, such as;

  • Data-driven based on workforce analysis;
  • Marketing plan & “Branding”;
  • Internet/Intranet Strategy;
  • Coordination of nationwide recruitment;
  • On-campus college recruitment; and,
  • Diversity focused recruitment materials.

In addition, SSA uses Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hiring flexibilities such as:

  • Internships, Co-op (Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP);
  • Federal Career Intern Program (FCIP) (2 year Excepted Appointments);
  • Veteran Appointments;
  • Schedule A Appointments;
  • Workforce Recruitment Program (students with disabilities);
  • Competitive postings through USA Jobs; and,
  • Presidential Management Fellows.

At this time, I would like to share what we at SSA consider to be some of our best practices.

SSA’s Office of Human Resources produces a monthly hiring report that cumulatively tracks fiscal year hires on a monthly basis for all EEO groups as well as Veterans at both the agency and Deputy Commissioner level. In addition, the Office Human Resources’ Office of Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity (OCREO) prepares for each Deputy Commissioner quarterly workforce profile reports that provides information on hires, promotion, training, awards and disciplinary actions. The Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources and OCREO staff meet with each Deputy Commissioner to discuss the quarterly workforce profile report and to offer guidance on recruitment, retention, and advancement for employees.

SSA is working with colleges and universities that have large populations of underrepresented groups. SSA regularly recruits at historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions and has cooperative agreements with Native America tribal colleges and universities.

SSA has established partnerships with national organizations with ties to colleges and universities to help attract diverse candidate pools. Such organizations include the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the Association on Higher Education and Disability, and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

SSA has six Equal Employment Opportunity advisory groups:

  • American Indian and Alaska Native Advisory Council (AIANAC);
  • Black Affairs Advisory Council (BAAC);
  • Hispanic Affairs Advisory Council (HAAC);
  • National Advisory Council for Employees with Disabilities (NACED)
  • National Women's Advisory Committee (NWAC); and,
  • Pacific Asian American Advisory Council (PAAAC).

The advisory groups assist the Agency in its recruitment initiatives in addition to their primary role of assisting our agency address our employees’ concerns.

SSA has comprehensive training opportunities for its employees. We have three national development programs for employees from grade GS-9 through Senior Executive Service.

The Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SES CDP)

The SES CDP is an 18-24 month program open Government-wide to current permanent GS-15s or equivalent employees. GS-14 and GS-13 employees who have 52 weeks of experience at the GS-14 level can also apply. The SES CDP consists of individually planned developmental experiences and formal training courses to prepare candidates to assume executive responsibilities.

The Advanced Leadership Program (ALP)

The ALP is an 18-month program designed to provide high potential employees at the GS-13 and GS-14 levels with training and higher-level developmental experiences to prepare them to become future Agency leaders.

The Leadership Program (LDP)

The LDP is an 18-month program that offers high-potential GS-9 through GS-12 employees a variety of developmental experiences through rotational assignments and training directed toward developing specific leadership competencies.

In closing, I would like to emphasize SSA’s pride in its workforce and its efforts to promote diversity, in all its definition, among its employees. We believe it is our pride in our workforce and our commitment to diversity that has resulted in SSA named one of the top ten Best Places to Work in Federal Government.

Thank You.