The bill, approved by voice vote, aims at boosting low morale at the Department of Homeland Security. It would create an engagement steering committee and a program for non-mandatory employee awards.
The 2017 DHS Morale, Recognition, Learning, and Engagement (MORALE) Act would seek to reverse a job satisfaction problem that has plagued the department for years. DHS usually ranks among the worst places to work in annual employee surveys. Morale dropped 15 percentage points at the department between 2010-2015, the most of any agency with at least 800 employees.
The bill also tasks the department’s chief human capital officer with increasing leadership development, growing employee engagement and designating an employee as the chief learning and engagement officer.
An engagement steering committee would consist of representatives from all components, supervisors, rank-and-file workers, and labor groups to develop morale improvement strategies.
This bill also allows the DHS Secretary John Kelly to launch an annual, non-monetary award program to recognize excellence within the department. “It sends a positive message to the DHS workforce by telling them that their contributions to the DHS mission are valued and they haven’t been forgotten as they endure new stresses and challenges under the Trump administration,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-MS (bill’s author) said. “Given the department’s national security mission and the increasingly scarce availability of resources, it is essential that the DHS workforce is prioritized as they are responsible for carrying out the diverse range of programs that keep our country safe.”
Kelly pledged to remove restrictions that he claimed had taken their toll on employee job satisfaction and appeared to welcome at least one aspect of the Hose-backed bill. “The best way to improve morale is to let employees do the jobs they were hired and trained to do and recognize them for doing it,” he said.