The Immobilized SES

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By on February 28, 2012 in Human Resources with 0 Comments

The Partnership for Public Service has released a report documenting position mobility within the Senior Executive Service. The report findings indicate that members of the SES workforce generally remain in the same position throughout their careers.

According to the report, the SES was established by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 and was meant to be a corps of leaders who would periodically move between agencies to gain an enterprise-wide perspective. It was believed that the mobility aspect would help to create seasoned managers rather than technical experts to build a better leadership system within government.

The findings from the report indicate that the mobility that was hoped would be a part of the SES is virtually non-existent. Almost half of the 7,100 senior executives have stayed in the same organization for their entire SES careers. Only 8% have worked at more than one agency and only 11% have changed subcomponents within an agency.

Some of the barriers to mobility include:

  • The absence of a government-wide system to facilitate it
  • Relying on word of mouth to learn about opportunities in the SES
  • Some agencies do not like to “loan out” technical experts
  • Negative perceptions of mobility among individuals

Some of the suggested ways to increase mobility in the SES are:

  • Creating more incentives
  • Adding mandatory mobility criteria into the hiring process
  • Creating a single entity to centralize management of executive mobility

The authors of the report make it clear that the intent behind the SES was to have a mobilized workforce, that is isn’t happening based on their findings, but believe that acting on the findings and following some of the report’s suggestions could restore the mobility concept within the SES workforce.

© 2020 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.


About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.