Archive for category Budgets

Building a 21st Century Government…One Leader at a Time

Federal Government MoraleWhen Obama’s budget plan for fiscal 2015 was released, the plan had its fair share of supporters and naysayers. There are obviously many sections to the plan, but there is one specific portion that addresses the challenge that a plethora of articles have been written about and many agencies are challenged with lately…leadership, and specifically leadership that could use a bit of an overhaul. Lately, there seems to be less and less agencies that are exempt from a lack of effective leadership. Even the Secret Service has been in the news recently claiming the agency is lacking the right leadership. Reports that I have referred to in this blog, such as the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government and the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), have found that leadership is on the decline and steps need to be taken now to avoid the situation from continuing to spiral downward.

Will the new budget plan be enough to change the current leadership crisis?

Obama’s goal to “create a 21st century government” includes addressing management initiatives to drive further growth and opportunity and “deliver a Government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth.” The President’s budget plan incorporates the following strategies to begin tackling this leadership crisis:

  • Includes initiatives to deliver better, faster, and smarter services to citizens and businesses, including investing in new approaches to digital services to provide a world-class customer service experience to citizens and businesses to Government information technology.
  • Expands the use of shared services between Federal agencies and strategic sourcing to leverage the buying power of the Government, bringing greater value and efficiency for taxpayer dollars.
  • Continues to open Government data and research for public and private sector use to spur innovation and job creation, while ensuring strong privacy protections.
  • Invests in training, development, and recruitment of the Federal workforce, unlocking the potential of our Government and ensuring that we can attract and retain the best talent and foster a culture of excellence.

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was requested to conduct a study to analyze the reasons why morale has declined to its current level and determine the steps that need to be taken to boost employee engagement, motivation, and productivity. Research of this caliber would be helpful to provide a set of guidelines to federal agencies that are in desperate need of a leadership change. The training investment President Obama has included in his budget plan is the right direction needed to initiate that change.

The Ken Blanchard Companies has worked with several organizations to conduct an Employee Work Passion assessment that measures employee perceptions revolved around twelve organization and job factors and the intentions that result from these perceptions. An individual employee’s perceptions influence not only their feelings about their job but also influence whether or not they intend to stay with the agency, their discretionary effort and productivity they put forth in their role, and their intent on how they endorse the agency. When an individual’s perceptions are understood, a strategy for improvement is recognized, thus improving individual morale and organizational success. Researchers at Blanchard conducted a study along with Training Magazine that centered on important factors regarding employee retention, job and organizational factors that survey participants felt were most important, and who was responsible for ensuring that the needs pertaining to those areas were met. Learn more about this study and the results the research team at Blanchard uncovered in the Employee Work Passion whitepaper.

What are your thoughts on Obama’s budget plan to implement more efficient leadership and management training and an overall positive perception in the Federal Government? Do you think it’s enough?

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8 Values of Teleworking on a Snow Day or Any Day

benefits of teleworkToday is a snow day for government employees in DC. Oh, wait, never mind. You still have to get to the office but you are allowed a two-hour delayed arrival time due to inclement weather in the DC area. Some federal government employees may choose to brave the weather and make their way through the snow to get to work, while others will take advantage of the opportunity to take an unscheduled telework day.

Those that choose the latter will reap the benefits of several values that come along with teleworking, according to a study, that also includes a ROI Toolkit, conducted by the Mobile Work Exchange in conjunction with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The findings review the advantages that not only individual government employees enjoy by teleworking but the value that the agency benefits from by authorizing more employees to work in a mobile work environment.

Commuting costs – By teleworking at least one day per week; employees can save time and money on their commute. This benefit is primarily for the employee, however, the agency can still use this value to increase a current employee’s commitment or attract new talent to the agency.

Transit subsidies – This value helps agencies save money by reducing the amount of transit subsidies processed by employees who are able to decrease their commuting miles or work from a mobile location.

Environmental impact – Executive Order 13514, signed by President Obama in October 2009, requires agencies to meet a standard reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This teleworking value can support agencies’ efforts in meeting that goal and help the environment. Employees are also able to use less transportation, thus reducing their carbon footprint.

Continuity of operations (COOP) – A disruption in business operations can cost millions in lost productivity. We’ve seen evidence of this in unexpected office closures due to harsh weather in the past, as well as during the government shutdown late last year. Agencies can avoid this by ensuring that their staff is able to do their jobs from home or other remote locations.

Productivity – Many teleworkers report an increase in productivity and an increase in actual amount of time spent working when they telework due to less distractions and the elimination of the time required to commute to and from the office.

Recruitment/retention – As employees try to find the right work/life balance, many are praising the ability to telework as a means to achieving that perfect balance. This flexibility helps agencies retain their top talent and avoid the high cost of recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees.

Real estate – Desk sharing and hotel spaces are two ways agencies can reduce the amount of office space required by its employees. Federal workers can collaborate with one another and coordinate their schedules so each can utilize the same office space on varying days of the week, eliminating the need for more desk space.

Utilities – In turn, when agencies eliminate the need for so much office space, utilities such as gas, electric, and water are reduced and the agency is able to save on those costs. During Telework Week 2012, USDA asked eligible employees to telework one day per week. Following that week, the agency calculated the cost savings on utilities to be equivalent to what 50 homes would use over the course of one week. Imagine if more agencies adopted this policy more often!

Telework Week 2014 just around the corner! Last year, over 136,000 government employees participated in Telework Week saving $12.3 million in commuting costs, reclaiming 665,936 hours back into their day, eliminating 7,892 tons of pollutants from the air, and saving 12.1 million driving miles. Now isn’t that better than a two-hour delayed start time? Pledge to telework the week of March 3-7 and reap the benefits for both you and your agency.

Share how teleworking has saved your agency money.

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It’s a Fiscal Cliff! It’s a Sequester! It’s Ineffective Leadership?

SequestrationAs much as I would like to jump on the “sequester bandwagon” and write yet another article about the impact this enormous change will have on our country, I’m going to take a different approach on the topic that is monopolizing water cooler discussions these days.  I, like the rest of us, have been reading articles, listening to news reports, and paying attention to other’s viewpoints on what the sequester means to them, their interpretations on how we got to this point, and the personal connections they have to specific individuals that will be heavily influenced by this modification.  But let’s take a look at the overall leadership that has, for the most part, guided this nation to be where it’s at today.

Most of us are familiar with The Best Places to Work report published by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte.  The report is a survey that includes information on how federal employees feel about their workplace and their individual roles with regard to issues such as leadership, training and development, pay, and teamwork.  The object of the survey is to alert leaders to areas that are falling short of employee’s expectations and satisfaction. According to the 2012 report, there are three key factors that are the driving influencers among federal staff. These factors include; effective leadership, agency mission and employee skill match, and satisfaction with pay. All three of these factors are significant, but let me call out that for the seventh time in a row, effective leadership has been the principal component that is said to drive employee satisfaction and commitment to their jobs in the federal workplace. The category that evaluates how much leadership at all levels of the organization “generates motivation and commitment, encourages integrity and manages people fairly, while also promoting the professional development, creativity and empowerment of employees,” is the lowest-rated category in the report.

There is no doubt that if this sequester happens, it will have an additional impact on already strained learning and development training budgets. Although this may resolve immediate budget issues, it will only cause far more intense repercussions in the long run.  We are already seeing employees leave their public sector jobs in droves. We can’t continue to put a bandage on a much larger wound.  A seven-year decline in how our nation’s leaders are performing is a significant indication that improvements are imperative.

Perhaps we need more servant leaders in the federal government, leaders that know their role is to help people achieve their goals. Servant leaders try to determine what their people need to perform well and live according to the agency’s vision and mission. Their goals are focused on the greater good and focuses on two major components of leadership-vision and implementation. Take three minutes and watch this video titled, It’s Always the Leader. In it, Ken Blanchard talks about a trip he took to the DMV and was pleasantly surprised by his experience with the facility’s leadership.

I can only imagine what federal public servants are feeling in this tumultuous time. Want a place to vent? Send in a video of how you’re doing even more with less in your role. Or, if you’re happy with the leadership at your agency (Congrats, NASA!), send us a video about how your leader motivates and inspires you to put your best food forward.

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Workforce Restructuring = Options For Government Employees

I recently wrote an article about how agencies can do more with less and still keep employees happy. In that blog post, I listed 8 strategies that leaders found effective when they were faced with budget cuts back in the 90’s. What we don’t know is whether or not the employees that were impacted by those strategies were given the opportunity to be a part of the decisions that were mandatory for those agencies to survive at the time. Many of those agencies are once again faced with significant budget cuts; however, things are a bit different this time around.

People often resent change when they have no involvement in how it should be implemented.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) sent a memo from Director John Berry to agencies’ chief human capital officers that provided direction on buyouts, early retirement packages, and reassignments. The memo states, “The Federal Government is experiencing restructuring and downsizing in an increasing number of agencies. As a result, some Federal employees may ultimately find themselves in a position of having to transition to a new job.” Change is never easy for an organization. Involving employees in certain decisions that are influenced by change lessens the overall impact it could have on an individual and the organization. That is exactly what several agencies are doing in order to implement the instruction to plan a budget that is 5 percent below their spending levels in 2011. Government employees are being offered buyouts and early outs as a way to avoid potential layoffs and furloughs. In several cases, employees are given the option to be reassigned to another agency in order to continue their career with the government.

When change occurs, people initially focus on what they have to give up. Their first reaction to a suggested change often tends to be a personal sense of loss. This includes, among other things, the loss of control, time, order, resources, coworkers, competency, and prestige. To help people move forward, leaders need to assist them in dealing with this sense of loss. Helping employees get in touch with what they think they will be losing from the change will help them accept some of the benefits.

Check out this short video about how change needs to be a course of actions you do with people, not to them.

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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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