There are a great many insights we can get on the Federal workforce by looking at the Best Places to Work survey conducted by Partnership for Public Service, but one struck me as particularly revealing. In looking at the data from the 2012 survey, we can see that only four in ten Federal employees believe they will be rewarded for doing good work. This is not surprising, given the impact of the pay freeze, the sequester, and furloughs. A recent article in Excellence in Government, “The Federal Government Does a Terrible Job of Recognizing High Performers,” suggests that one way to provide non-monetary rewards for government employees is to offer Alternative Work Schedules (AWS) and telework. This is not the first time I have seen this suggestion, and I am sure that some employees do see more schedule flexibility as an important benefit. But should we really be looking at workplace flexibility as a reward for high quality performance? I disagree – for two reasons.
Reason One: Workplace Flexibility should be an intrinsic part of the way we work – all the time. It is not a special reward for excellent performance but a part of the environment in which all employees operate. If we have employees who need training in how to work effectively in a mobile environment, then we should give them training. If we do not trust employees to work in this environment, then we need to understand why that lack of trust exists and repair that gap. Sending a message that flexibility is reserved only for a select few sends the wrong message and may actually reinforce the behavior that resulted in the less-than-excellent performance in the first place.
Reason Two: There is no necessary tie between high quality performance and the spaces where we work. The type of environment that supports excellent performance varies by the work process performed and the workstyle of the individual. Some work processes require extensive team interaction or the use of work tools found only in the office. Other processes can be performed anywhere, any time. In addition, work styles vary. Some people work better in an informal environment; others work better in a traditional office space. Some people get energy from working in a busy environment, while others need a quiet space with no distractions to focus their attention on tasks. Performance matters – as do rewards for contributions above and beyond expected requirements -- but it’s time to move beyond the idea that flexibility is a special benefit for a few.
You can find the Excellence in Government article at: http://www.govexec.com/excellence/promising-practices/2013/06/federal-government-does-terrible-job-recognizing-high-performers/65531/
Please note that the opinions expressed in this post are my own.