Archive for category Federal Agency

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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Why You’re Really Hitting The Snooze Button

employee engagementMillions of people watched Gwen Dean as she quit her job as an engineer in a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl last week. Gwen’s dream was to start a puppeteer business, and with the help of GoDaddy.com, she is doing just that. Over 17 million of us have watched Marina Shifrin’s “I quit” video announcing her resignation from her role at a Taiwanese animation firm. Shifrin’s move landed her countless job offers, including an offer to be a digital content producer on Queen Latifah’s talk show. These decisions by Gwen, Marina, and others have caused some colorful feedback on whether or not the method they chose to leave their current jobs, in order to pursue their dreams, was appropriate. Despite that, these individuals have taken the steps to do what makes them happy, whether they loved their job or not.

CareerBuilder conducted a study and found that 1 in 5 U.S. workers will search for a new job in 2014, despite the economy and the unemployment rate. Gallup study results have shown that only 13% of employees are engaged at work, 63% are not engaged, and 24% are actively disengaged. (Go ahead and read that sentence again if you’re as shocked as I was by those stats.) Specifically in the federal sector, we’ve seen reports like the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government study uncover a steady decline in how satisfied government employees are with their jobs, leadership, and agencies.

A whitepaper, written by researchers at The Ken Blanchard Companies®, includes findings that state, “when employees perceive a manager is more concerned with his or her own agenda than with the welfare of others, negative affect is often the result. This is coupled by the employees’ reluctance to endorse the organization and its leadership, to stay with the organization, and to feel connected with their leader or colleagues.” The report goes on to affirm, “another implication for practice is for HR personnel and strategic leaders to create and sponsor leadership training programs and company values that stress and support servant leaders. Consistent, overt, self-concerned managers should be counseled and invited to become more aware of their behavior.”

Training magazine and The Ken Blanchard Companies asked over 800 Training magazine readers what they felt were the most important factors when it comes to staying engaged in the workplace. The responses include:

  • Job Factors—Autonomy, Meaningful Work, Feedback, Workload Balance, and Task Variety
  • Organizational Factors—Collaboration, Performance, Expectations, Growth, Procedural Justice (process fairness), and Distributive Justice (rewards, pay, and benefits)
  • Relationship Factors—Connectedness with Colleagues and Connectedness with Leaders

Are these factors aligned with what keeps you engaged at your agency? Share what additional factors are important for you to remain engaged and passionate about your role?

So the next time you’re about to hit the snooze button for the eighth time, think about if the factors that keep you engaged in the workplace exist with your current role.

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A Breakthrough Year for America

state of the union addressIn last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama covered a lot of ground around topics like jobs and the economy, immigration, education, and energy. As with many of these addresses in the past, regardless who was serving as our country’s Chief of Staff, there are several mixed reviews of what the President had to say. Some may support the proposed initiatives highlighted last night, while others may have little faith that many of the changes will occur, and there are many articles already published that critique the address.

One constant that was evident and encompassed the entire Address was change. In order for America to grow, we need change. President Obama structured that change in the form of raising the minimum wage, offering equal pay for equal work, keeping the dream of homeownership alive, driving health insurance reform, providing next-generation connectivity, and incentivizing clean energy solutions, among others. Another change that caught my ear was the examination of federal job training programs.

President Obama stated he is involving Vice-President Biden in an “across the board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need.”  “That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life,” Obama said.

A change like this to federal job training programs could solve a complex issue that is facing our government—leadership deficiency. Agencies need to develop their leaders and equip them with the skills needed to develop into a candidate for the Senior Executive Service (SES) or other leadership positions that are currently unfilled. With a vast number of federal employees set to retire, many agencies will soon be faced with the conundrum of who will fill those leadership roles. Considering that this next generation will lead the federal agencies that support the overall mission of our country, let’s hope that Obama’s hope to reform federal job training programs includes leadership training.

What did you think about President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night?

Are you ready for a Year of Action?

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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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3 Steps to Discover and Retain the Intrapreneur at Your Organization

intrapreneur, change, innovationChange is a constant. Like it or not, it is inevitable that at some point throughout your career, you will experience a change that forces you to rethink everything; your goals, your strategy, your outlook, maybe even your job. Nobody is exempt from change. Despite whatever GS level you currently hold or where you reside on the corporate ladder, change will find a way to squeeze onto your to-do list. When most people think of change, they think of current events that unenthusiastically impact an agency from the outside in, much like the shutdown or sequestration. The change that I’m referring to is change that comes from the inside and, if leaders are paying attention, has the opportunity to transform the way an agency, even the government, does business.  The change agents that initiate these transformations are called intrapreneurs.

Intrapreneur is not a new marketing buzzword. Most people have heard of these idea generating, passionate, radical thinkers. Many companies, like Google and Apple, encourage their employees to spend time thinking outside the box to come up with the next innovative idea. The challenge, when you’ve been lucky enough to uncover a forward thinker within your organization, is preventing leadership from the unbearable internal resistance that can cause intrapreneurs to take their ideas and run. This is the last thing that government agencies need to happen while they try to obtain and retain the talent they already possess. If you are lucky enough to have an intrapreneur working at your agency, there are steps you can take to make sure they don’t jump ship at the first opportunity.

Allow Employees Time to Think – There may be an intrapreneur right under your nose and you may not even realize it. Heck, they may not even realize it! A good leader encourages and coaches individuals to instill forward thinking. Inspire your staff. Build confidence. Empower their originality. Lead change.

Nurture New Ideas – A new idea doesn’t have to derail the overall strategy of the agency. Often times, leaders dismiss what could have been a more efficient and innovative concept, that contributed to the accomplishment of the agency’s mission, simply because it’s outside the routine way the organization does business. As a leader, recognize that your ideas are not the only good ideas that come out of your department. Work with your staff, don’t dictate, about how their ideas could or couldn’t work for your agency.

Incorporate Innovative Ideas into Daily Tasks – Not all ideas will work for your agency but when a thought-out concept is brought to the table, don’t immediately dismiss it unless you’ve given it a test run. Try incorporating innovative ideas into the daily tasks that are already working for your agency. By changing the routine up just a bit, you might uncover a more efficient way of performing a task or accomplishing a goal. Taking small steps to test out a new idea can set a leader’s mind at ease by avoiding a significant set-back that could occur by taking the idea full throttle too soon. It can also make the intrapreneur feel valued, trusted, and supported knowing that their idea spurred a positive change within the agency.

People often resist change when they’re not a part of the change process. Create a culture where intrapreneurship thrives and ground-breaking ideas are encouraged and the idea generators will want to support the mission.

Are you an intrapreneur? How does your agency allow for intrapreneurship at your agency?

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Giving the Gift of Generosity

GiftThis time of year expends a lot of time and energy into choosing just the right gift for our loved ones, finding the perfect ugly sweater for the holiday bash, or setting out holiday decorations for the season. These traditions can be a lot of fun but the season encompasses so much more than the material gifts, the parties, or the decorations. For me, generosity is at the heart of what brings us together, particularly during this time of year. For those working in and around the government, there are rules we have to contend with about gift giving and receiving. I believe the best gift we can give our colleagues, customers, and business partners is something that cannot be restricted or regulated; ourselves.

My first suggestion to anyone wishing to give something to their team members or partners is to stop and spend a little time thinking about how you might make a difference in someone’s day by simply being present. Making a conscious effort to focus on the interactions you have with the people around you every time you come in contact with them is not always easy. When we put away our smart phones while meeting in person, stop reading emails or talking on the phone and focus on one person at a time, those interactions become richer. We are able to see posture and expressions or hear inflections in a voice. It is so easy to miss a cue that could change the way a conversation goes when we are not completely focused.

Second, give the people you work with the benefit of believing the best in them. Sometimes, particularly in written communications, we read between the lines and create a problem when there really was none. If you aren’t sure that there is something more to a communication, ask. Generosity is more than spending money on gifts, more than helping a friend or colleague when they ask. Being generous can also be about giving of yourself, making an effort to connect with people to learn what they need. Best of all it costs nothing.

I plan to take a break this year from the stress that often comes with the pressure of gift giving and over packed schedules. Instead, I will focus on giving the people I see every day my attention and kindness. I hope you will too.

Have you already shared the gift of generosity this season? Share your story here.

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What the Government Shutdown Taught Me

What I learned from the government shutdownWe’re all familiar by now with the impact the 2013 Government Shutdown had on government employees, the American people, and the economy. Just to recap a few statistics from the shutdown; 6.6 million days of lost work, $2 billion in back-pay costs, 120,000 private sector jobs lost, estimated decrease of fourth quarter real GDP of 0.2-0.6 percent, and roughly 850,000 Federal employees furloughed per day. You can read additional statistics in the full report, Impacts and Costs of the October 2013 Federal Government Shutdown, issued by The White House.

These are difficult facts to think about and acknowledge. Additionally, the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results were posted last week by the OPM and it shouldn’t be a surprise that of the 77 areas included in the survey, 53 show decreases in satisfaction among Federal employees. Since I work for a leadership development organization, I try to seek out the learning opportunities in every situation. Fortunately, I received an email from my friend, Jeffrey Vargas, Chief Learning Officer at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that outlined what he learned from the shutdown. I found it to be an impressive list that can be applied to both the public and private sector. I hope you enjoy the list as much as I did and find at least one silver lining from it.

Well done, Jeff!

What I learned from the shutdown – Jeff Vargas

1. Save, save, save $$.
2. Trust in God, even when he is silent.
3. Appreciate your job/coworkers.
4. Anxiety produces no fruit, prayer calms the soul.
5. Import and export encouragement.
6. Appreciate your friends.
7. Honor your medical needs/health condition – don’t always eat in a hurry, enjoy lunch.
8. Appreciate your church.
9. Appreciate your role as a parent.
10. Dare to dream.
11. Control what you can control and let go of the rest.
12. Develop plans B, C, and D for your life.
13. The one who has power has a plan – discover Gods plan for your life, listen to the everlasting architect.
14. Government executives and members of congress should dress in jeans, shorts and football jerseys; builds a sense of team and belonging.
15. All opinions don’t warrant a response.
16. Truth – Don’t pay attention to uninformed idiots who have never worked a day in a federal agency but believe they know how to run a government better than you do. Trust your experience.
17. Walk at least 30 minutes a day.
18. Having a daily routine isn’t so bad.
19. Your biggest investment of self should be in people, not technology, systems, or process.
20. The Good Shepard takes care of His sheep – God has blessed me with a better life than I ever deserved and I am forever grateful for His grace, love, and provision. He gets all the praise.

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