12/04/2014 02:47 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2015

Critiques of the Presidential Management Fellows Program

A number of federal employees responded to my recent column about the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program, largely reinforcing the flaws that recent surveys found in the way agencies manage this premier initiative.

The surveys, conducted by the Partnership for Public Service with assistance from the Office of Personnel Management, took the pulse of a group of fellows at the beginning of their assignments in 2011 and at the end of their two-year term. The PMF program is designed to bring bright, young and high-achieving individuals into the federal government -- and convince them to stay -- yet the surveys showed that agency leaders need to improve their supervision of the fellows, set realistic job expectations and offer more meaningful assignments.

These failures are important to address, given the government's need to attract a new generation to federal service, groom future leaders and bring fresh ideas to our public sector. Today, only 7 percent of full-time permanent federal employees are under the age of 30, while they account for about a quarter of the total U.S. workforce.

One longtime federal executive who has worked at several agencies including NASA wrote to me that "the PMFs that I know are among the best and brightest," and lamented that "we are turning them off from government service early in their careers."

"Leaders need to pay closer attention to who supervises the fellows and ensuring that they are provided meaningful assignments," the executive wrote. "These things should be done for all new hires, PMFs or not. However, if we cannot do that for the small percentage of new hires that the PMFs represent, then there is no way it can be done on a larger, across-the-board, scale."

This post was originally featured on The Washington Post's website