Government is rapidly transforming to keep up with the challenges and needs of the citizens they serve. Agencies in all levels of government are trying to adapt to new innovations and methods of communication, but many times, leaders face cultural resistance or a lack of knowledge and skills. By emphasizing and improving collaboration, developing competencies within the workforce, and tying organizational change to agency missions, leaders will be able to overcome organizational inertia and move government into the future.
To learn more about public sector collaboration and progress into the 21st century, GovLoop recently invited Mika Cross, Communications Director at the Department of Labor’s Office of Veterans Employment and Training, to speak at “The Power of Collaboration in Government” event. Cross, who is a retired member of the military and long time public servant, has years of experience in helping agencies manage and reform their human resources.
To get agencies to innovate and advance their missions, they need to better collaborate with internal and external stakeholders. Cross spoke about how collaborating helps agencies move forward, because by working with other federal agencies, state governments, and the private sector, they can find solutions to complex issues.
In her work at the Department of Labor, she helps veterans find jobs by connecting them to important resources and employers in need of their skill sets. “Through my work, I collaborate with the Department of Homeland Security, AmeriCorps, state workforce agencies, and private employers to drive down veteran unemployment.” Considering that most veterans and federal employees do not live in the DC area, it has been crucial for Cross to be able to collaborate with stakeholders around the country.
The department leverages technologies such as the Veterans.gov website to communicate with partners and connect veterans with resources that can help them find employment. The website allows veterans to access information on mobile devices and receive one-on-one counseling, but most importantly, it assists state, local, and federal agencies as they collectively serve jobless veterans.
Agencies must develop a culture of collaboration though before they can better collaborate and maximize the benefit of new innovations. “People and processes drive culture in government,” according to Cross. That’s why agencies need to hire and retain talented people for the organization.
Stagnation in the federal hiring process is causing challenges for leaders trying to modernize because it is hindering agency’s ability to recruit new employees and cultivate new competencies such as willingness to collaborate. Cross noted that schools are starting to tailor curriculums to develop skills in youth such as inquisitiveness, open-mindedness, risk-taking, and reflectiveness, which creates more collaborative and balanced employees. Employing talented individuals with a holistic set of skills and abilities will help agencies foster new lines of communication and innovations within the agency.
New, collaborative employees will also help agencies better serve the public. Everything an agency workforce does is tied back to the mission. By framing increased collaboration and innovation as ways to help more constituents, agencies can develop cultural buy-in from employees. For Cross, working across agencies and governments with new technologies allows her to put qualified veterans to work and give back to those that have bravely protected our country.
Challenges in government increasingly need to be solved with collaboration and innovation. By reforming workforce management in an agency to better emphasize collaboration, leverage technology, and cultivate new competencies, agencies can advance their missions for decades to come.
This blog post is a recap of GovLoop’s recent event in partnership with Cisco, The Power of Collaboration in Government. For more recaps, click here.