Doing More With Less: Can the Federal Government Make it Work and Keep Employees Happy?

Manage the journey of change rather than announce the destination.

Budget cuts are being implemented government-wide.  Agency leaders are currently faced with continuing to manage the day-to-day functions of maintaining a successful organization while upholding the morale and motivation of their employees. Change can be a significant struggle, especially when dealing with less and expecting more. The Partnership for Public Service along with Booz Allen Hamilton published a study that focuses on how government agency leaders can continue to guide employees and maintain a functional workforce while having to cope with large budget cuts. Over 30 senior-level federal employees were interviewed for the study.  Those individuals shared eight strategies that were successful for the agencies they worked for back in the 1990s, when they were faced with major budget cuts and reductions in the number of federal employees, yet were expected to do more with less.

The eight strategies that were shared could not be successful without four conditions; requirement of top-level leaders to make difficult decisions and share the vision with employees, ability to plan ahead and be prepared with how to respond to inquiries, experience to decide how to best apply the strategies for the agency, and apply a functional change-strategy that would minimize the adverse implications of the reductions. Those eight strategies include:

  1. Across-the-board cuts – decrease programs or functions equally
  2. Programmatic cuts – reductions based on importance or efficiency
  3. Decreasing administrative costs – cut overhead without weakening workforce
  4. Personnel reductions – cost-savings through attrition and/or forced layoffs
  5. Consolidating or centralizing functions – hope for greater efficiency
  6. Reengineering – improve service quality with awareness of upfront resources required
  7. Investing in information technology (IT) – increase productivity and efficiency
  8. Outsourcing – assign functions to external organizations at a lower cost

Constant change is a way of life in organizations today. Like it or not, in the dynamic society surrounding today’s organizations, the question of whether change will occur is no longer relevant.  Change will occur, budgets will be cut, and resources will be limited. How do leaders cope with the barrage of changes that confront them daily as they attempt to keep their organizations adaptive and viable? Developing strategies to listen in on the conversations in the agency so that they can surface and resolve people’s concerns about change is a great place to start. They have to strategize hard to lead change in a way that leverages everyone’s creativity and ultimate commitment to working in an organization that’s resilient in the face of change.

With the recent budget cuts, how is your organization dealing with the impactful changes?

Read the full report from Partnership for Public Service, Making Smart Cuts.

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