Leadership Corner

OneUSDA & Telework: Embracing the balance of customer service with employee flexibility

January 16th, 2018 at 1:15PM

Photo: close-up portrait of man in Forest Service uniform in front of American and Forest Service flags.
USDA Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke

President Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, the first Forest Service Chief, worked hand in glove to create the Forest Service in 1905. Their sense of purpose and partnership yielded an enduring organization that has inspired pride, commitment and dedication — one that to this day attracts creative, thoughtful people to care for the land and serve people.

In 1876, Congress laid the foundations for the Division (later Bureau) of Forestry within USDA to assess the state of America’s forests. Through USDA, we helped lead the first and oldest movement in the United States to practice conservation and sustainable forestry, and of that we can all be very proud. I know I am.

As part of USDA — “the People’s Department” — both Roosevelt and Pinchot recognized we share the department’s longstanding traditions of supporting the sustainable use of our nation’s forestlands, farmlands and ranchlands for the benefit of the American people. This shared purpose gives us common ground to work closely with our sister agencies within USDA.

To enhance our connections with the land, people and our fellow USDA employees, Secretary Perdue has shared a vision of operating as OneUSDA: where all agencies work together to make USDA the most effective, efficient, customer-focused and best-managed department in the federal government. The spirit of OneUSDA springs from our commitment to provide responsive customer service and have consistent access to the ideas and expertise of our fellow employees to help provide that service.

Secretary Perdue introduced an initial series of departmental initiatives to help us achieve the OneUSDA vision, embedded in our first USDA first strategic goal: to ensure our programs are delivered efficiently, effectively and with integrity. He has directed all agencies to:

  • Restore sanity and common sense to a cumbersome, labor intensive and costly departmental directive review process;
  • Enhance the Secretary’s Awards and Recognition Program so that we can properly celebrate our accomplishments toward achieving all of our strategic goals;
  • Amend our telework policy to one that works for the American taxpayer and for our colleagues who come to the office each day; and
  • Review a wide array of directives — through Human Resources and the General Counsel’s Office — to create policies and processes that are transparent and consistent for the employee, the supervisor and the American citizen.

We’ll continue to share information as more specific details emerge about the changes.

Today I want to address the new telework policy. Part of the OneUSDA focus is appropriately balancing customer service with employee flexibility while achieving a greater physical presence in all USDA offices. Telework is important and valuable, but at the same time, we need to balance it with our desire to lead the way as an agency of choice. We are called upon to provide more consistent customer service and create stronger workplace communities by encouraging more collaboration with both external and internal stakeholders. The new policy aligns with our national priorities of uplifting and empowering employees, delivering excellent customer service and sharing stewardship with partners and volunteers. 

I know the new policy will mean a change for many of you. It is different from practices in recent years, and we are sensitive to the impacts it will have on many employees. I encourage you to work with your supervisor to find ways to help with transition to the new policy. We will continue to provide accurate and timely information as we receive further details. In the meantime, please read the OneUSDA Telework Q&As for more detailed information and answers to some of your questions. We also invite your comments and questions through submissions to the Leadership Corner Forum

Thank you for all your work and all you do to work together with employees, partners and volunteers and to provide excellent customer service to the American people.