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Highlights from 2012 Public Service Recognition Week Public Service Town Hall

This morning I attended the Public Service Recognition Week Public Service Town Hall, put on by the Partnership for Public Service. It was a “Public Employees Roundtable and federal agency leaders for a town hall discussion about what agencies are doing to deliver vital public services at a lower cost, how to communicate that value to the American people, and ways to show appreciation to employees and keep them engaged during times of tough budget cuts.” Featured speakers included Kathleen Sebelius, Ray LaHood, Janet Napolitano, and Dan Tangherlini.

Lately, the news has been focusing on the negative, but this week the Partnership for Public Service is looking at what the government has been doing right despite challenges: shrinking budget, globalization, and increased partisanship.

The panel brought up the following issues as what they currently working with:

  • DHS – Although air travel has increased over the past decade, airport security lines are around the same size and they are working to make passenger experience better while providing effective security. As leaders in this atmosphere is is essential to let employees know that they are doing a good job, despite the lack of resources given to them to complete their missions. (Napolitano)
  • GSA – People didn’t really know what GSA was until the scandal, and need to understand the irony that the organization is about saving the government money. GSA needs to redouble these efforts and publicize this information. When we respond to these issues need to deliver innovation and outcomes so solutions can be found (Tangherlini)
  • HHS – This agency continues to be one of the best places to work in gov, but the challenge for leaders is to find how to make employees proud of what they do, and how to share strategies and ideas. (Sebelius)
  • DOT – Trying to pass even a highway bill, but partisanship makes it difficult. Congressmen are “coming to do nothing”, which makes is difficult for anything to pass because “bipartisan” does not have the same definition today than it did previously. (LaHood)
Afterwards, the panel opened up for questions. Here are some select questions and responses:

Next generation coming into public service – what are you doing to appeal to these young employees?

  • Tangherlini – agencies cannot afford to hire more, but the desire to serve the government has increased, need to strike the right balance between the demand that people are showing to join and serve
  • Napolitano – need to outreach into universities, recruit them, give them a career path that makes sense
  • Sebelius – trying to recruit young health care providers to work for the agencies and in return help pay off tuition, recruit new scientists. It is alarming that the federal workforce is about to near retirement age, need a pipeline of new talent and gain new skills for succession
  • LaHood – find one younger career person to mentor within the agency

How do you make the government a place for women/caregivers to see themselves in?

  • Tangherlini – focusing on telework and flexihours
  • Sebelius – want give the opportunity to be better caregivers, find strategies to recognize that you shouldn’t have to choose family or work, government can offer this ahead of the private sector
What opportunities are provided for veterans?
  • Napolitano – DHS employees 50,000 veterans, special website postings, for the work in this agency veterans are highly suited, veterans have preference in civil service exams

After the GSA scandal, how to regain public trust?

  • Tangherlini – the public has as much anger, disappointment, and frustration with the GSA as with the Congress, the scandal doesn’t represent the employees of the GSA, scandal sparked conversation with employees on how they can save even more money for taxpayers – looking at how the government travels, provide strategic sourcing, doubling down on sustainability

How important is intergovernmental cooperation?

  • LaHood – DOT wouldn’t be able to work without the cooperation of states, cannot do anything without great partners, very professional with no politics, don’t in order to create jobs and make travel easier for Americans; also collaborate with DHS to keep airplanes and trains safe, don’t see anything about this in the news unless something goes wrong, which means a lot of stuff goes right
  • Sebelius – departments are working together across agencies to solve problems, for example HHS is working together with DOE to help with early education – curriculum, safe environment, etc. On another level the healthcare bill is a state strategy, need their cooperation to make it happen
  • Tangherlini – this panel took a tour of duty through state and local government, have so much to offer in terms of managing limited resources, have an ability to focus on administrative services to make this possible, need to work closely to eliminate duplication
How are you emphasizing ethics in your agency, in light of the scandals?
  • Napolitano – How can we make training more relevant and exciting? How do we incorporate this into ethics and the importance of public service?
  • Sebelius – Need to train how you approach conflicts, risk strategies – need to instill ethics so its a routine part of business
  • Tangherlini – particularly important at GSA right now, using technology to speak to people the way they are speaking to each other right now

At the end of the day, LaHood pointed out that there are a lot of good people working in the government, who work hard every day to serve the American people, and it is important to recognize their hard work.

This event will be streamed on YouTube on the Partnership of Public Services YouTube Channel if you would like to check it out!

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