Focus on Team, Mission and Communication to Improve DHS Morale, SHRM’s CHRO Tells House Subcommittee

Mar 22, 2012
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Jeff T.H. Pon

In second Capitol Hill appearance, SHRM shares private-sector lessons on disabilities management with Senate committee

Washington, D.C.— The Society for Human Resource Management brought its expertise on the workplace to Capitol Hill today as the Society’s chief human resources officer and two senior members testified before two congressional hearings on issues facing the workforce.

U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management

Appearing before the House subcommittee hearing “Building One Department of Homeland Security: Why is Employee Morale Low?,” Jeff T.H. Pon, SHRM’s chief human resources officer, noted that he could “understand and appreciate the organizational challenges … faced by a relatively new agency working to assimilate more than 10 subcomponents.”

Pon, a former chief human capital officer for the U.S. Department of Energy and an executive in private business, said: “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.”

He drew from 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, he 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.”

U. S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

Christine Walters and Karen A. Amato of the 260,000-member Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shared with the Senate committee what the private sector has learned about keeping employees with disabilities in the workplace or helping them return to the workforce.

Amato, director of the integrated disability management, wellness and safety programs at SRA International Inc. in Fairfax, Va., described two successful strategies used by large employers: prevention and early action.

Wellness programs enhance the overall health of employees and help employees with impairments remain at work, said the former nurse. Successful practices also include having an onsite case manager; incentivizing work and employee engagement; and providing creative accommodation.

“Proactive employer interventions and prevention efforts can help employees return to work and stay at work, and that improves the bottom-line for both employers and families,” she told the committee.

Speaking on behalf of SHRM, Amato and Walters, owner of the HR consulting firm FiveL Co. in Westminster, Md., spoke about the value of flexibility in the workplace, including the practices of flex time and telework.

“Even small business employers are becoming more learned and creative in finding ways to keep employees with disabilities gainfully employed,” said Walters, legislative director for SHRM's Maryland State Council.

Among the challenges faced by small business, Walters said, are complex and overlapping state and federal laws. She suggested the focus be on tax incentives, recognition programs and other incentives rather than mandates to encourage employers to take proactive measures to recruit, hire and retain people with disabilities.

MEDIA: For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Kate Kennedy at and 703-535-6260.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at or follow SHRM @SHRMPress.
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