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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Former Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould

HR Academy Launch
Washington D.C.
November 2, 2010

Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here today at the launch of the HR Academy.

This is an exciting time for VA—a time of great change, of great momentum, of great hope, and a lot of hard work.

This launch represents an important milestone for VA. It is another key step in developing and preparing our HR team for the challenges that lie ahead.

These challenges will require all of us at VA to develop bold and innovative solutions, and become more flexible and agile than ever.

  • Rapidly evolving technologies have changed the way that the world communicates. VA must adapt and change the way we interact with Veterans, employees, and others.
  • Expectations of government have increased on all sides and we are serving a growing and increasingly complex population of Veterans and their families.
  • Within a few years, much of our workforce will be retiring, which leaves us in jeopardy of an institutional brain drain.
  • We face an influx of millennial employees who tend to challenge the conventional.

To meet these overarching challenges and make a difference in the lives of Veterans, we need to take a tough, hard look at our current organization, from top to bottom, and identify areas for improvement in quality, access, and value.

We need to question our assumptions. We have to change our direction. We need to transform. This means:

  • Change VA’s culture from Veteran adversary to Veteran advocate.
  • Improve the quality of our services and benefits.
  • Build a strong and flexible management infrastructure to help us achieve these results for Veterans and their families.

HR professionals will be a key part of achieving this critical transformation, and VA’s HR Academy will help you know how to do it.

Today our mission—to serve the men and women who have served our country—is more important than ever. HR professionals are key to VA’s success.

What you do every day—to recruit, develop, and retain the right people, and to plan for a strong VA workforce of the future—makes a difference for America’s Veterans.

You understand that superior HR practices lead to a superior employee workforce. It is true in the private sector; it is especially true at VA.

When you use the latest HR tools and systems to make sure that the new receptionist who greets Veterans at the Baltimore VA Medical Center is the most compassionate and well-qualified receptionist around—that means our Veterans are getting better customer service.

When you go the extra mile to quickly hire 20 new VBA claims processors who are bright, hard-working and innovative—that means that thousands of Veterans across America will soon receive the benefits they need to feed their families, buy a home, or get a good education.

When you work hard to recruit and hire two highly skilled, service-oriented new HR specialists—that means VA can start filling vacant positions more quickly.

When you offer your expert guidance to a hiring manager so that she finds and hires exactly the right IT program manager—that means VA can launch a much-needed new IT system on time and on budget.

And when you make the extra effort to retain one of our most highly experienced nurses at the Memphis VA Medical Center, that means our Veterans—and our younger nurses—will continue to benefit from the nurse’s insight, wisdom and expert care.

America’s Veterans are counting on you. They fought and sacrificed for you, for me, and for America’s freedom. In return, we owe them the very best possible care and service—delivered by VA employees who are highly skilled, dedicated and some of the best in the field. You are the key to making that happen. That’s why we need your energy, your commitment and your dedication to excellence.

Here’s the good news:  we’re going to make sure you succeed by giving you the tools you need, by providing you access to top-notch training, and by clearly showing you the steps you need to take to advance from one level of excellence to the next. That’s what the VA HR Academy is all about.

We’ll show you better ways to recruit, train, measure, reward, and manage today’s workforce. We’ll provide top-notch learning opportunities from sources inside and outside of VA. We’ll train you to close gaps in our HR service. And we’ll award certifications to people who achieve skills that add value to our organization.

We at VA are proud to offer this outstanding opportunity. Programs like this are rare—the HR Academy is one of the only programs in the Federal government designed to provide comprehensive, top-notch training to HR professionals.

As more HR specialists take advantage of the HR Academy and VA’s reputation for HR excellence grows, we hope that that each of you also earns a personal reputation for excellence that will enhance your marketability, and advance your career.

And keep in mind that your ability to provide great service in HR depends on the knowledge, skill, and professionalism of your internal customer. The HR team is developing Service Level Agreements, procedures, and training to help our VA be better partners in hiring, training and retaining our people. VA’s leadership is fully committed to transforming the Department into a 21st century organization. That’s why we’re investing in you and your development; why we invested a record $300 million in HR last year, including $200 million in training; and why we plan to invest another $300 million in HR this year. And that’s why we’re launching the HR Academy.

We know that the key to strengthening VA is to invest in you—our HR professionals—and your development.

I encourage you to take advantage of all the HR Academy has to offer. You will benefit from improved skills, insight into today’s best HR practices, higher performance, and a more successful career. And Veterans will benefit because you will be equipped to hire, recruit, and retain the best possible team of VA employees, and build a vibrant VA workforce for tomorrow.

VA’s HR Academy:  it’s a transformational learning opportunity that will improve your career, and strengthen and advance VA.

Thank you.